By Esther Fiebig
She’s one of the office staff members we keep on speed dial. We call her when we’ve eaten contaminated chuzos from the centro. We call her when we’ve been over zealous in soccer and have suffered an injury. We call her when we’ve got Chikungunya and are convinced we’re dying. We call her for every health concern that befalls us as Peace Corps volunteers, and she is always ready to come to our rescue. She is the woman, the myth, the legend. She is Dra. Charo.
What is your full name?
Maria de Rosario Montecinos Vargas
Where does Charo come from?
Charo is a nickname for all the Rosarios. In Bolivia, they call us Charo, Sario, or something like that.
Where are you from?
I was born in the Bolivian altiplano highlands in Oruro.
How did you start working for Peace Corps?
I had just finished studying in the United States and there was an advertisement in the newspaper looking for an English speaking physician that knew the Bolivian medical standards of care and U.S. medical standards of care, knew the medical system in the rural areas and also knew something about mental health. I told my father, and I said “look they are looking for this profile”. My father said, “They are looking for you.” I applied for the position and I was hired.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be?
The funny thing is that I always knew I was going to be a doctor. I think it was like a brainwash. My father is a doctor. My mother’s brother is a doctor. For some reason, I was his favorite niece. Both of them always told me I was going to be a doctor, so there was no option for me. So, they brainwashed me.
What is your craziest medical story?
When I was working my first year as a physician, I had to work in a rural area, and I was working in a hospital in a small town called Chayapata. There was this case of an old man, he was in jail and he got sick and they brought him to the clinic and, of course, I was the only physician there so I took care of him. And I asked him why he was in jail And he said, “Oh because I murdered somebody. “But who and why?” And he told me that there was a man in another town who had a mental illness and was very abusive to everyone. He would kill people’s sheep and beat his elderly mother. And one time the mentally ill man beating his mother and the mother screamed for someone to come help her. And the mother asked the old man to kill her son. So he helped her and killed him. That was really shocking for me. I saw many things over there, some of them really sad because of the poverty.
What is your favorite movie?
Oh let me think about it…Lately I don’t watch movies that much….there were some movies when I was a child of an Italian singer, Rita Pavone. They had musical movies and I remember going to see them over and over again. She was a very tiny girl and used to sing and dance and I remember really liking that.
What’s something that we might not know about you?
I have a twin sister.
Favorite childhood hobby:
I had a bike. I used to ride my bike and go all over. I used to get in trouble because there were places I wasn’t supposed to go and I would go anyway. I was really rebelde.
Dogs or Cats?
Dolphin. I think they are smart, I think they can dance also with the music. The coordination, they are able to dance together and I don’t know I like them.
If you could choose a super power, what would it be?
To know the future.
Favorite place in the world:
Best Office Friend:
Charo’s message for volunteers: