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Rocio's Story

I’m Rocio from Lima, Perú. I’m a woman, granddaughter, daughter, mother, sister and more. I’m the mother of two young adults who are the pillars in my life and for whom I’m grateful. I am 54 years old and I’m very proud to keep going in life and continue learning. I receive a lot of love and affection from my family and I also love dogs, which are my weakness. I am the eldest granddaughter and had to be the example for my cousins. I grew up as an only daughter until I was 17 years old. And I also grew up in a bubble of protection from my family, which is not always there to care for us.


Unfortunately, I have dealt with bullying in my life since childhood. I remember when I was 4 years old I had an accident in which I almost lost my vision and one eye, but that did not happen. But it did affect my growth by the teasing I received from my classmates at the all girls school where I noticed that I wasn’t the only one who was bullied.  They also made fun of other classmates; if you were fat, skinny, ugly, short, too tall, if you had dark skin, if you were poor, if you didn’t have clothes and/or brand name things, if you were shy and/or quiet, there were so many things. From an early age, I have thought about how many prejudices there are and how we don’t realize the damage we can do to other people. It’s so difficult to grow up like that!

Rocio in Puerto Rico with a puppy from Peru.

I also remembered that the school was religious and I was taught to ask for forgiveness for everything; which made me introverted and grow up with fear of saying things without being able to give my opinions. Over time I realized that by not saying things, it can cause problems and fill us with traumas, and carry pain or guilt by not expressing it. But well, that was my childhood and it affected my growth as an adolescent with fear and without confidence. I was ashamed to tell my mother this despite the trust that we had.


With my mother, I was embarrassed to tell her things because she worked so hard, so why give her more problems? I decided it was better to keep quiet and that taught me to say please NO, DON’T DO THAT.  Remembering her as a strong, hardworking woman, with character, outgoing, cheerful, a fighter, father, and mother. I saw and admired her and I knew it was hard for me to be like her. I couldn’t grow up next to her because she worked a lot all day long. We were only together Saturday and Sunday night. But it’s beautiful to remember her coming very late and coming into my room quietly approaching my bed and giving me a kiss on the head and yes, there were times that I felt her there.


I learned about reproductive justice from her without realizing it. Now being a health promoter, I know that she also fought for other people’s well-being, how proud I feel now that she is in heaven and she taught me something important in life. I saw her at her work helping vulnerable people. She also helped two women regarding the subject of a safe abortion. At that time, I didn’t understand abortion but my mother explained to me the right and reasons one might have one. Life was difficult for women to find resources and guidance on the subject and financial support regarding contraceptive methods and their reproductive health. She always told me that it didn't cost me anything to be able to “lend a hand,” that if I could I should listen to them, that some of us need to vent, to express our feelings. This was important for me because it helped me now in my work with the community as a health promoter. Thank you mom.

Rocio in front of Machu Picchu.

When I was 19 years old, my mother decided to emigrate to Madrid, Spain to seek a safer future for our family. At that time, my country was dangerous with terrorism. After nine months, she came back for us. In that country I had the opportunity to work as a tutor for a child and to study; I learned many things like overcoming prejudices. At the same time my self-esteem grew and I discovered that I was not as shy as I thought I was. 


It all happened one night when I went out with my boyfriend and I saw a man hitting a woman. I went over to them and said to the man, “Don’t hit her! You have to stop!”


He looked strong and said “Get out! This is none of your business.”


So I stepped in and pulled her toward me. 


But my boyfriend said, “Let her go,” to avoid problems, and I said, “NO NO, because I’m not going to leave her alone.”


And it was strange or lucky that 3 men showed up and one of them said to me, “Is something going on here?” 


I said “YES, he’s hitting her.”


Then one of them replied, “Go with her and we’ll hold him here for a while.” 


We went to her house to gather her documents and to find her a safe space. And that was the story. I didn’t recognize myself, but I saw that my confidence was growing. 


Eventually, I met my husband, we got married, had my first child in Madrid and from there we decided that I would have my second child in Peru. So, for a year, I went to my homeland where I could be with my family that I missed so much. Remembering the moments, the laughter and values…and with time I had to return to his side to start out life, the 4 of us– our little family, and we came to the United States.

Rocio with her kids in Wisconsin.

I emigrated to the United States at the age of 27, where my mother and sister also came so I wouldn’t be alone. Unfortunately, my mother got breast cancer and that changed our lives. I began to accompany her to her treatments and therapies. That’s where I met the Hispanic community in Milwaukee. While I was waiting for her, I talked to people. I listened to people who had no papers, were afraid because of their immigration status, didn’t speak English, didn’t have health insurance and many other things. Thanks to my mom, I started going to Hispanic places and workshops where I contacted people and/or looked for resources so I could inform others in whatever I could. The sad thing is that my mom decided to return to our country because of her immigration status. 


So over time, at one of the centers, I met a health promoter and she introduced me to Maria Barker. She told me about Planned Parenthood and CCmáS, which I loved, and I told myself it will be a great experience to be able to learn by offering free topics and support. Then came the opportunity to be able to guide other people to grow and for me to grow with them. So I decided to become a health promoter. As a health promoter, at the beginning it was not easy and I thought “I was wrong, this isn’t for me.” But I realized that with time, perseverance and love, although it sounds corny to say it, things get done. Well, I have always liked to share and/or support where I can. In my home health parties I had the opportunity to learn the ideas, dreams, goals, feelings, cultures, emotions, questions and more from several participants that enrich you personally and professionally. 


  • A group of people were strengthened personally and professionally

  • A group on WhatsApp was created where we all post announcements to give away free clothes, furniture, gadgets  

  • We organized donation event

  • We post relevant information, resources, news, etc.

  • We also meet at special times like Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc. to motivate and support each other. 

  • They also contribute their part by informing others. 

  • They give each other advice, encourage each other, and vent out their problems. 


In 2023, I had the opportunity to grow as a health promoter. My cousin invited me to Lima, Peru to bring and distribute toys to children in a vulnerable community where I feel very grateful with life to continue learning. I saw children and mothers grateful and happy, then I talked with adult women and I noticed the need for resources. With this situation I began to brainstorm ideas for how to contribute my grain of sand. All this led me to create an organization to train and promote information to women to have healthy communities. It was not easy, there were so many mixed feelings like fear, helplessness, tears, and happiness. Then in January 2024, we were able to build the center that is called USELF (Una sonrisa en la Familia/A smile in the family) where we started it with lots of love and optimism. I know there are people that we want to help, but what we lack are tools. Our mission now is to minimize the problems for women and families. Our vision is to be able to create various programs and opportunities for them.

Rocio and a group of women doing programs with USELF in Lima, Peru.

I am grateful to CCmáS and Cuentos de Confianza to be able to share their programs with USELF in Lima, Peru because it helps us to continue growing and better ourselves. My dream is to continue supporting women in Wisconsin and Peru so that they can empower themselves and other women. 

Rocio in front of a mountain and a statue with colorful wings.

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