“You don’t only come here to work. You come here to be better in every way, and this must be generational. We come to this country to live, not to survive.”
Cindia Martinez never stopped trusting her abilities; that is why she maintains great passion for everything she does. “The two most important tools for becoming a leader are: staying informed and setting an example for our children, family and community,” Cindia asserts with conviction.
She is a native of Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, and self-identifies as an Afro-Latinx woman. She is a proud mother of two children. Her eldest daughter is 18 years old, and recently moved to Fresno, California, to start college. Her youngest son is 6 years old, and just started school. When Cindia arrived in this country five years ago, she dreamed not only of making here a home for her family, but also of working as a professional in psychology in the field of education. In spite of the challenges she faced as an immigrant to obtain her professional credentials, she found an alternative path: becoming a community promoter—experience which has enabled her to advocate for herself, her family, and the needs of her community.
Her goal as a promoter is based on her own experiences, such as being a single mother, immigrant, from the working class, and living in a disadvantaged neighborhood. Accordingly, she seeks to motivate families so they are not afraid of using the resources available to them. The constant search for resources for her family and her community has led her to confirm that difficulties and obstacles bring opportunities.
Cindia has been a member of various community-based organizations. Instituto Familiar de la Raza was the first agency where she could work as a promoter. Later, others such as Visión y Compromiso, MEDA and Good Samaritan followed. The list continues to grow. Bit by bit she has become involved in the health field. She currently manages the Health Window at the Mexican consulate in San Francisco, where her role is to look for partners who can connect her community with the local health services for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.
Cindia informs the most vulnerable community members about different key health messages. Through her work, she has learned that the body, which we occasionally expose to extreme exhaustion, needs to be tended to. “In the same way we take care of the things we buy with our hard work—sleeping well, following a healthy diet, organizing our resources (planning a budget) and using the benefits to which we are entitled as residents of this city—we must care about these things to promote for ourselves and our families,” she says.
For this promoter, nutrition is vital. “A healthy diet allows us to face the day-to-day; it especially gives us energy for the demanding jobs we are exposed to in this country. Doing this adequately is vital when it comes to preventing chronic diseases. San Francisco is a good place to exercise; there are many places where we can access a healthy lifestyle, including food. Also, information is in our language,” she points out.
Cindia nostalgically recalls the very simple yet healthy way of eating in her place of origin. On that hill where she was raised, she could behold La Sabana River, the stars, nature like the mango tree that she planted with her grandfather, the lemon tree always within reach to prepare lemonade, and the purslane (which are eaten with egg). “At that time, we had lots of limitations. We lived off those fruits and vegetables, as well as the beans my dad would prepare, waiting for my brother to bring the tortillas after working all day long to buy them. Everything was so healthy and it showed in our health, especially in the health of our seniors. One might have thought of us as a poor, low-income family, but with quality foods that we did not appreciate,” emphasizes Cindia. Further, she asserts that we must return to the most simple and natural because, even if a mango tree is not within our reach, we can go to the local farmers’ markets—many of them owned by Latinx entrepreneurs—and enjoy these foods.
Perhaps there may not be time to prepare a salad or time for a formal meal; however, the feeling of peeling fruit, adding lemon to it, and getting our mouths dirty with what we are eating reconnect us with our origins and follow a healthy diet, which is within everyone’s reach. Asking our children about their favorite fruits and vegetables is one way to ensure they will eat them. Such is the case with Carlitos (Cindia’s son), who enjoys eating seasonal fruits, grapes in this case, when he goes grocery shopping with his mom at the local market: the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.
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