From Bolivia, South America to Williamston, South Carolina


It was a journey, with signs along the way

Cristina Ortiz spent a lot of time at her grand parents large family farm in Bolivia, South America when she was young. There were green pastures, horses and cows.
She had the opportunity to learn shared values from different cultures.
Her grandmother was from England, her grandfather from Ireland.
In her late teens and early twenties, she lived in Japan, for seven years.
In 2000, she came back to Bolivia, married her husband Alfredo and they had two children, Patrico and Carolina.
They had everything they wanted and were happy. They had good jobs and a nice home.
They lived and worked in the Capital city of Sucre. Most of the buildings housed government functions and were painted white.
“It looked like a sea of white,” she said.
Life was good in Bolivia.
But they lost their family land.
Native Indians, backed by the Government, confiscated the land. Despite hiring lawyers and trying to get the land back, they were unsuccessful.
Though they had everything they wanted, she said Bolivia no longer felt like home. She longed for her children to have more opportunity. “There is more than fighting for land”, she said.
“We have nothing if we don’t have a future for our kids,” she said.
Cristina said she told her husband, “We have to do this. We have to try to find a better future, a better way.”
At the time she was working for a worldwide company, Zurich Financial.
Her husband had an uncle in California. While visiting in Bolivia, he said to her, “Cristina – You have all these accomplishments, what is next?”
The question pierced her heart and began a desire for a change.
She and her husband began thinking about coming to the United States.
Her husband was a US citizen, they had family in California. They also had family in Miami and Atlanta. But neither spoke English. It was a big decision, but they wanted more for their kids.
To help with the decision, Alfredo took two weeks off from work and went to th United States, visiting Georgia, Florida and California. When he got back to Bolivia, he told Cristina about the US and what he had seen. “What a beautiful country, so big,” he told her.
In 2006 they decided to they would make the move to the US.
Zurich had offices in California and offered her a job there.
Friends tried to talk her out of it. They had good jobs, a beautiful home. It was a risky move, especially since neither spoke English.
Cristina said she began having second thoughts. She went to a beautiful park and prayed to God for a sign, to make it clear for her future.
Within minutes of praying, while walking through the lobby, she saw a person she hadn’t seen in years, who had a claim. They went to her office on the second floor and Cristina helped her with her claim. While talking, she shared her desire to go to the US. The friend, who also turned out to be related to Alfredo, told Cristina, “You have to go to Greenville, South Carolina”.
The friend/relation told Cristina that Mauldin was the perfect place to raise a family. It was safe, beautiful and green.
Cristina said God was speaking to her heart and had showed her the sign she had prayed for. “You need to be in this part of the US,” she said.
“To me, I’m sure after seeing a relative after 20 years.”
She spoke with Alfredo, was in Atlanta, and two days later, on a Friday, they came to Greenville and Mauldin. “It seemed like a perfect place to go to. Alfredo loved it,” she said.
She thought everything was perfect.
“But, there was no Zurich in the state,” Cristina said. “There is no job and I don’t speak English. I was so disappointed.” She asked herself, “If God takes me to this place, why is there no Zurich there?”
She said she prayed “to go where my kids will be safe. I don’t care if I have to wash dishes.”
So with no job and not speaking English, the decision was made –
In 2007, in the winter, in the middle of a recession and a housing market crash, they came to the Upstate.
“When we landed in Greenville, when I set a foot in Greenville, I knew, everything is going to be fine. I cannot explain how I felt,” she said. “I have to jump. I felt that hope.”
Within two weeks she found a job in a local bank.
“In two weeks, I was working for a bank, not speaking any English. I said in 90 days, I will learn to speak English.”
Cristina was working during the day and studying at night. Then one day, while listening to the radio, she said, “I thought, is that Spanish or English?”
She worked for the bank for eight months, then –
Cristina was recruited by a State Farm manager who recognized she had untapped skills and a genuine desire to help customers. After interviews, she was offered a position. She had no problem passing all the tests. She worked in the State Farm office for five years, and then as an office manager for another four years.
Ortiz – “I love it – meeting people and telling my story, for the community, I love this job.”
While working as a manager in the Simpsonville State Farm office, a regional manager asked why she was not an agent. She was told there were five offices in the community. If she was willing to work, and be a leader, there was a possibility she could be offered an agency in twelve to eighteen months.
State Farm Agents are invited to become an agent and potential agents go through a program and interview process.
During that time, one of the State Farms’ best agents, Joe Hinson, of Mauldin, happened to be at a training meeting which Cristina attended. While they were talking, Hinson, told her “You have to become an agent.”
“I decided that if I was invited, I would accept,” she said.
Soon after, Hinson passed away, she applied for the agency.
“Before the interview, I prayed for two days.”
The day before the interview, she went to a local park, and prayed.
The interview went well and she was selected for the agency.
“It was like winning the lottery in 2017”, Cristina said.
The agency officially became hers on June 1st.
The very first year her Mauldin agency was recognized by State Farm as the second best in the nation.
“It is incredible,” she said. “Number two in the nation – how did that happen?”
In 2019 she was nominated to become a member of MDRT, a select professional organization, the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) is a worldwide organization that recognizes exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct, and outstanding customer service.
“I won every award State Farm has. I did not struggle, did not stress. Our customers take ownership and I give money back to the community. I do my best. It is all we can do, everyday, it is In God’s hands.”
“State Farm is an amazing company,” she said. “They wanted me to do a video national level about opening an office, in Mauldin.”
In Mauldin she immediately became involved in the community, sponsoring events and conducting workshops for local business owners.
“I hope to inspire,” she said. “I hold workshops for businesses, to benefit everyone.”
She calls her Mauldin team her “Dream Team”.
“My team is my family. I have a personal connection with each member and feel God placed each one into my life for a reason.”
She said she told her dream team associates, soon after assuming the Mauldin office, “In five years, I want to open another office.”
“Exactly to the day,” she said. “June first of this year, I will open in Williamston.”
Ortiz said she wants to give back to the community. “To pay back,” she said. “I didn’t deserve. What do I need to do, to pay back the opportunities I have had.”
She said with “Wonderful people around me I have been able to build a successful agency.”
She related that in Mauldin, a person who worked in a women’s shelter for abused women, came into the agency. After talking with her, Cristina realized that she could make a difference in the community with business decisions.
She told her team, “How blessed we are, to have a job, success.”
“I really realized what it means to be a business owner. It was my decision. I could take my team out to an expensive restaurant to celebrate, or have pizza and send that money to the shelter – about $800.” “We were all crying,” she said. “I can decide what to do with my time.”
“My team is very happy. Everyone in my office, God sent to me, they all have an amazing story.”
She said each has different skills that they bring to the table.
“I ask for guidance, before an interview. Follow a path, don’t have doubts, live by faith, have faith”
State Farm is a very community oriented company and encourages their agents to be involved in their community.
While considering another location to open an agency, she could have gone to Greenville or some other metro area. But she visited Williamston and said she could feel that it was the place she should be. “”It fits exactly with who I am, the same values and principals that I have fit.”
When Cristina interviewed for the Williamston agency, she was asked about Williamston. She related the story of West Allen Williams finding the spring, and the park, and growing a town around it.”
She was awarded the agency in March of this year.
Once an agency it awarded, the new office has to be open within sixty days. “I had sixty days to find a building, renovate it and be ready to open. It’s a little bit of a challenge,” she said. “But with everyone’s help it happened.”
June 1 was the target date, exactly five years from when she told her Mauldin staff she wanted to open a second office.
“To open next week – I am very excited,” she told The Journal during this interview.
“Relations, friendships. Every person I’ve met so far, I’ve received such a warm welcome and overwhelming love.”
“Everyone has been so helpful.”
Local realtor Roberta Hamby helped find an office, a house on Anderson Drive, in just two days.
Hamby also helped find a local contractor, the Gowan Brothers, to make necessary renovations to convert the house into office space in the short time they had to get it open by June 1.
The inside of the building was completely remodeled and has five new offices in it. A bright red door greets customers.
While renovation work was being done on her new Williamston office, twenty-five packages were being delivered, but no one was available to accept the delivery. She called Mayor Rockey Burgess. “He dropped everything”, she said. “This is how you build communities.”
“God – if you follow him – it’s going to be easy.”
Giving back to the community and community involvement is very important to Ortiz.
Even before officially opening the office in Williamston, Ortiz began giving to the local community.
She helped clean up in Mineral Spring Park during the “Working on Williamston” (WOW) day organized by Envision Williamston in April.

In May, Ortiz co-sponsored the Envision Williamston “Cinco De Mayo” celebration held in the park
She opened her office in Williamston on June 1.
The same week the office opened, the Cristina Ortiz State Farm agency presented Envision Williamston with a $10,000 grant as part of the State Farm Outstanding Community Engagement Program.
Ortiz was selected for the grant as part of State Farm’s recognition of her for being 1 of 100 agents nationwide, who were nominated and selected for their outstanding community engagement. She decided Envision Williamston would be the recipient.
But even after that big announcement, giving back to the community didn’t end.
Ortiz will sponsor some of the “Freedom Games” at the upcoming Freedom and Fireworks Celebration in Williamston.
She thanked Mayor Burgess and Hamby for helping her and making her feel so welcome..
“Every person I’ve met so far, I’ve received such a warm welcome. Overwhelming love.”
“I am here to serve this community and to tell my story,” Cristina said. “I love to tell my story,”she said. “I want to tell my story.
“If you do the right thing, God has a way. Dreams can happen. If you have faith and work hard. Coming to the land of freedom, it does happen.”
“I am very, very excited to be here,” she said. “And to be able to work with these people. My team, shared values, giving back to the community.”
“I am on the right path. South America, Japan, the US, the different cultures, I have seen a lot.”
“It is the perfect location, the perfect people to work with. Customers have been amazing,” Cristina said.
The Williamston agency became available after the unexpected death of State Farm Agent Sherilyn Woodruff in late 2021.
Ortiz said after the agency became available and she visited Williamston, she felt like it was another sign.
“This community needs you there,” she told herself. “You can’t walk away from something God is giving you.”
“Choose the life, it is not always easy. There are no excuses for not doing what you have to do in life.”
Connecting the past and future and finding a home –
Cristina said that before opening her new office, when she was traveling from Mauldin to Williamston, she found a connection to the past that she loved so much.
“It was an opportunity to go back to my grounding as a human”, she said. “Back to that farm in Bolivia. I lost that big farm, the horses . . . “.
But on the way from Mauldin to Williamston – “The horses, cows, farmland, I can see every day. I knew in my heart. God knows what is in my heart every day.”
“I was raised on a farm, with pastures, farms, in another country. But there are shared values that cross borders and countries.”
“We had similar education as a kid, and the cows, the horses,
“It was calling my heart. I Love nature. I have to be a part of that nature.”
She related her experiences in Mauldin and now to be in Williamston.
“To see how blessed we are, with leadership and community.” “I have the same vision, it will happen”.
She praised the “beautiful park” in the center of town, where she came and prayed before her interview with State Farm on the Williamston agency.”
She said she is working on a book with her team, the last page is yet to be written, the dream continues . . .
The Cristina Ortiz State Farm Agency office is located at 806 Anderson Drive in Williamston. For more information call 864-847-7285 or visit their website

New State Farm Office
Pictured in front of the new Williamston State Farm office are (l-r) Caroline Davis Kelsey, Raiven Cook, Pamela Jones, Cristina Ortiz and Raiven Cook. The office is located at 806 Anderson Drive.