My name is Nilda Soto, the proud mother of four sons, and grandmother of eleven. I was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico and move to the United States on December 6, 1969. I was only nine years old. I will never forget the day I left Puerto Rico to move to the united States. On that day, I traveled with my mother and eight brothers and sisters in an airplane. It was unforgettable; while we travel I looked out the window and saw snow everywhere. It was beautiful! However, I thought to myself. I moved from a tropical Island to a very cold area.
I was raised in a family of thirteen children, toe of my sisters passed away at an early age. My two of my older brothers and sister had already traveled to the United States. They worked really hard to help give us a better life in the United States. I can recall the day I arrived to the U.S., the happiness of everyone waiting for us and their beautiful smiles. After living in Philadelphia, my mother realized that it was not the place to raise us. So, she decided to move to the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I went to school and graduated from Kalamazoo Central High.
The summer after finishing high school, I got married. My life changed from that day on. I married a migrant farm worker. We traveled to Ohio, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and back. At first, I thought it would be great because I got to travel and see different places. However seeing tomatoes, cucumbers,eggplants, pepper and strawberries fields was not my idea of traveling. I realized that this way of life was not what I wanted for my children.
I wanted to be given the opportunity to prove myself. I already felt the discrimination of being a farm worker. I knew what it was to be treated unfairly by different agencies as a farm worker. I can remember the first time when I felt the unfairness, I was asked to leave the Plant City unemployment office because I had my two month old baby in my arms. I walked out, looked back and remembered saying “ Lord give me the opportunity to be on the other side of the counter someday. I whipped my tears, kissed my baby, and walked away. It was so hard to get used to harvesting. I used to look up in the sky and would say “Lord if this is a punishment, please give me the strength to go through this”. Then I would wipe my years and continue working.
In 1984 I decided not to travel anymore. My oldest was going into first grade and I did not want him to fall behind. I move to lakeland and decided to go to the Job Service Office (which is now called CareerSource). I waked in the office and asked for an application for a shrimp packaging place. After filling out the application. I handed it to a lady that worked there. She stated I should continue as a farm worker as I did not have good work history. Once again, I felt discriminated because I was a farm worker. I was determined to stay and give my family and me the opportunity. I refused to let anyone stand in my way.
When I least expected, I received a call to let me know that the Winter Haven Unemployment Office. They needed someone for a bilingual position. On April 6, 1984, I remember waking in the office; I was so nervous and shaking from head to toe. I was interviewed by the manager and he gave me the opportunity to work there. I remember walking to my car and while I sat there. I looked up and thanked the Lord for giving me the opportunity to be on the other side of the counter. I whipped my tears of joy and drove off. I will never forget that day and Ron Tibido, he gave me the opportunity to prove myself. I worked in the Department of Labor for six years. I also as the MSFW Outreach Worker.
The manager from the Farmworker Program saw how dedicated I was working and being an advocate for the farm workers. I received a call from her with an offer to work for the Farmworker Program. Once again I was given the opportunity to assist farm worker with not only employment but a better way of life through education.
In April of 1990, I became the Employment Specialist for the Farmworker Jobs and Education Program for the Polk Project. I then became the Program Coordinator. I worked 30 yrs for Florida National Farmworker Program. God has given me the opportunity to be able to help and give services to farm workers which they so much deserve. I am proud to have been a farm worker; it's a hard job but an honest way to earn a living. I am thankful for having the opportunity to work in the field because I know with my experience I can relate to the farm workers. One thing, I have learned through my life experience is to, NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU COME FROM!