On any given day, you will find Cristina Ortiz serving the community and helping others as a State Farm agent out of her office at 118 West Butler Road in Mauldin, South Carolina. The story of how she came to call Mauldin, South Carolina her hometown will inspire and challenge your heart.
Her story began in the capital city of Sucre, Bolivia. Cristina describes that town as housing the government functions for Bolivia and looking like a sea of white because they had painted many of its buildings and structures white. She and her family lived in a beautiful home there. Cristina and her husband Alfredo also worked in good jobs and they were happy until one day, the native Indians confiscated their land. Despite hiring lawyers, they were unable to get their land back.
Relatives visiting her from the United States initiated her desire for real change and adventure with a simple question. After observing their lives and being somewhat impressed with the young family’s accomplishments, they asked if she was happy and wanted to know if this was “it” for her. The question took her by surprise and pierced her heart like a big arrow. Suddenly, she realized that this was not “it” for her because this no longer felt like home given what had happened with their land. Cristina realized that she had everything she wanted but was in the wrong place. Above all, she longed for her children to have more opportunity than this. In her heart, she knew that there was so much more in this world than fighting for a little piece of land.
Cristina shared this concern with her husband, Alfredo, and they embarked upon a plan. Although Alfredo had a United States passport, he did not speak English and had never been to this country. Using his two weeks of vacation, Alfredo would visit towns in the United States where they had relatives to get a feel for this new land.
In the meantime, her friends could not understand this newfound zeal for moving to the United States and tried to talk her out of it. They pointed out that the Ortiz family held the best jobs in the city and lived in such a beautiful home. Leaving friends and family behind, she would be making a risky move especially since neither of them spoke English fluently and they had no job prospects. Cristina started to have second thoughts and prayed to God for a big sign, one that would make clear her future path. She would accept God’s will either way.
One day, that sign came as she walked through the lobby at her place of employment. A woman, whom she had not seen in years, grabbed her arm and explained that another car had hit hers and left a scratch. So, Cristina helped her file her claim and then, they sat down for coffee. During their ensuing conversation, Cristina unloaded her heart and told the woman about her indecision. Much to her surprise, they discovered that Alfredo was related to this woman’s family. Then, the woman declared that they had to go to Greenville, South Carolina because she had family there who could help them in this new land. Cristina phoned her husband who rented a car and headed straight for Greenville, South Carolina to check it out.
When Cristina’s boss realized she wanted to move to the United States, he helped her get a job offer from her current company at a California location near her uncle. Now, she knew they had to move to this new country, but should they go to South Carolina or to California? California provided the much safer option, but God gave her the sign about Greenville. That night, sitting on her porch, she prayed about all of it. She says that God makes us go to deep places in our heart, to trust Him. The next day, she turned in her resignation—Greenville, South Carolina it would be.
Thirteen years ago, in 2007, Cristina and Alfredo, with their daughter Carolina, and son Patricio, arrived in Greenville, South Carolina. In her early thirties, she felt scared in taking this bold step, but her faith kept her strong. Despite the terrible recession and scarcity of jobs, a bank hired her within two weeks. Cristina spoke very little English but promised she would learn the language quickly and she kept that promise. Ten years ago, she was recruited by State Farm where she would manage one of their agencies for several years. However, the company recognized untapped skills coupled with a genuine desire to serve customers, so they invited her to become an agent, a goal she achieved 2 years ago. Cristina knew the previous agent at the Mauldin site where she now practices. That agent, Joe Hinson, considered one of the best in the field, had encouraged her in the pursuit of this dream to become an agent. Cristina also remembers being drawn to this location whenever she drove past it. So, when Joe passed away, she applied to become the new State Farm agent at that very site.
Within the first year after assuming her new role, the agency on Butler was recognized by State Farm as second best in the nation. In March 2019, Cristina was nominated to become a member of a select group named MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table). This independent, worldwide organization recognizes those with exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct, and wonderful client service. Cristina believes that God has big plans and hopes that she can repay what God has entrusted to her by caring for those in our community. She works with 12 non-profit organizations to help them raise money and regularly plans breakfast and lunch meetings to help people with the nuts and bolts of starting and running businesses. In October, one might find her handing out candy at a Trunk or Treat event or giving away pumpkins at her agency’s door. Wherever one might spy her, she will be helping, serving, and caring in whatever way possible.
Cristina modestly insists that her successes are not her own and recognizes so many who have helped her along the way. Her hand-selected “dream team” at the agency consists of Hattie Colvin, Michelle Morrow, Carolina Velasquez, Jim Peters, and Fadhir Horaces. Cristina has a personal connection with each member of this exceptional and caring group and feels that God has placed each one of them into her life for a reason. She also credits the Greater Mauldin Chamber of Commerce and Pat Pomeroy, Chamber President/CEO, for much of her success. She says that this organization feels like one big, caring family. In addition, she also thanks the community of Mauldin for faithfully supporting her business.
At last, Cristina speaks tenderly of her Mom, a gifted math teacher and lawyer who had resided for seven years in Japan. After they had settled, her Mom, also moved to the Greenville area to be near her only daughter and grandchildren. Until her passing in April 2019, she assisted Cristina with the children which provided her time to study in her new profession. Patricio, Cristina’s son, now 16 years old, attends the SC Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. Like his grandmother, he loves mathematics and science and has expressed interest in teaching or public service as future professions. Cristina’s daughter, Carolina, attends Brashier High School. Cristina says that her 14-year-old daughter is smart, has a big heart, and cares greatly about her church, community, and friends.
After their move to the United States, Cristina remembers declaring this, “I know I am where I need to be in this universe. I feel home for the first time in my life.” She is proud and honored to be an American, an American by choice. In addition, she states that that there is no place like America and no place like the Greenville/Mauldin area. “We have a piece of paradise here, a place where dreams can come true,” she says while flashing a dazzling smile that lights up her eyes. This petite woman, driven to care for others, work hard, and serve her community, is powerful proof of that!