When Lourdes Urrieta cooks, she doesn’t smother her dish in sauces; garlic, salt and oregano will do. As much as she can, she avoids high fructose corn syrup — really anything artificial, which she calls “sabor de mentira,” or flavor of lies.

Those habits took time to develop. After Urrieta moved her family from Venezuela to Fort Worth to escape political conflict in 2018, her body had changed along with her environment. New ingredients, new customs around meals — like fast food — and the prevalence of preservatives in the U.S. had left her feeling sluggish. 

Urrieta, 43, learned to navigate health in her new country through The Rojo Way, a program by Rosa es Rojo, a nonprofit that provides wellness education for Hispanic women in North Texas. More accurately, she needed to “unlearn to learn,” she told the Report in Spanish. 

The Rojo Way is a 20-hour course that offers free, culturally relevant wellness education and mentorship to women in Spanish. The program’s August cohort has room for 60 Hispanic women in Tarrant County, thanks to a $20,000 grant from United Way of Tarrant County. Those spots have yet to be filled, said Aideé Granados, the founder and CEO of Rosa es Rojo. 

Apply for The Rojo Way:

What: 20 hours of free, culturally relevant wellness education and mentoring in Spanish

When: The next cohort begins Aug. 16, but a new cohort starts roughly every three months

Who: Hispanic women who speak Spanish and live in Tarrant County

How: Begin the online application here

The Rojo Way works like this: For the first 16 hours, participants meet from 9–11 a.m. or from 6–8 p.m. once a week for eight weeks. “We don’t do lectures,” Granados said. “We do workshops, even via Zoom.” Most courses take place virtually, but some community partners, like Cristo Rey College Prep in Fort Worth, have opted to host The Rojo Way in person. 

The education portion focuses on nutrition, mental health and physical activity. Each cohort learns to read food labels, the myriad names for sugar and how to identify and vocalize emotions. All content is culturally relevant and delivered in Spanish, Granados said. 

Culturally relevant content works with, rather than against, each woman’s heritage. Healthy eating, for example, allows for staples like beans, tortillas and cactus. Physical activity can look like Zumba or walks in the park, Granados said. 

The final four hours of the program comprise one-on-one mentoring sessions between Rojo Way ambassadors like Urrieta — women who’ve already completed the program — and participants. Each ambassador helps the newcomer create an action plan tailored to her family.

Lourdes Urrieta holds her graduation certificates after completing The Rojo Way. (Courtesy | Lourdes Urrieta)

Urrieta took the course in 2020. She learned about the opportunity through her children’s school, Cristo Rey College Prep. That year, the school helped fund women to participate. 

By then, Urrieta’s health provider had told her she was pre-diabetic, a condition that affects more than one in three adults in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes meant her blood sugar was higher than normal, but not high enough for her to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

Could you have prediabetes? 

Take the risk test here.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The habits Urrieta learned from the course helped her stay on track. Two years in, she still doesn’t have diabetes. And, she’s modeling for her school-aged children how to be healthy.

Granados hopes each woman will, like Urrieta, share what she learns with the people around her, including family and friends who only speak Spanish. 

“We want the knowledge not to be a Bandaid but have a generational impact,” she said. 

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her by email at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....