A second-generation promotora, Delmis Lorenzo is carrying on a family tradition
Delmis Lorenzo has spent much of her adult life supporting members of her Los Angeles community. Her community-oriented career has taken her through roles working with asthmatic patients in clinical settings, as a Spanish translator with the First 5 program in South Central Los Angeles, and with the comprehensive community development nonprofit Esperanza Community Housing Corporation. So, when COVID-19 hit, she naturally worried about how the community, especially the Spanish-speaking communities of South Los Angeles, would stay informed about critical health and financial resources available to them.
For Lorenzo, the need to inform the community and build a bridge between critical services and those who need them is almost second nature. After immigrating to the United States from Cuba, Lorenzo’s mother took up work as a community-based advocate, or promotora, as they are typically referred to in historically underserved and Latine communities. In Cuba, where Lorenzo spent the first 13 years of her life, her mother worked as a dietician.
“Delmis understands just how important this work is, and how promotoras can deeply impact communities,” said CRC Organizing and Campaigns Manager Patricia Villasenor.
Lorenzo began as one of CRC’s Economic Equity Promotora’s earlier this year. In this brief Q&A, Lorenzo discusses how she came to be a promotora, how the program is benefitting those in Los Angeles, and why she’s passionate about upholding the promotora tradition.
What draws you to work as a promotora?
I love to help people and teach them new things. I want to get to know and understand peoples’ situations and I want to help them find solutions to their problems. This is specifically important to the Spanish-speaking community in Southern California, because, historically, they’ve had a hard time accessing services or even putting trust into those services. Promotoras can be those people in the community that they trust.
What does it take to be a good promotora?
Promotoras are important because we lead with honesty and we’re here to listen. We’re willing to share our stories and provide comfort to community members. People can come to us without prejudice, and they know that we share their culture and that we’re advocates. We’re here to help in any situation.
Being honest is really important, and so is the willingness to share your stories. That helps with creating a connection with the community. There also has to be a willingness to engage with the community that you work with on a personal level. For me, I’m still new to financial wellness. I tell people that if I can learn this, then so can they.
Did your experience growing up in Cuba influence your path to becoming a promotora?
I learned how to do this in my home country. Cuban people, in Cuba, really help each other out. They look out for one another. But, technically, I learned what a promotora is from my mom, who has been one for more than 20 years. I became a promotora because she recommended it.
What are you most proud of in this work so far?
So far, I know that we have been able to directly impact Spanish-speaking communities here in Southern California by helping individuals open bank accounts. I’ve gone with people to banks to help them open checking accounts. For me, I get to see the nervousness go away and I get to see their confidence grow once they feel empowered. It’s really amazing. And, it shows the need for this program in our communities.