Magaly  (Family Support Partner, Pinebrook Family Services, Lehigh County, PA)

My name is Magaly Soto (Maggie). I am from Puerto Rico. I don’t consider myself Latina. I was taught by my dad that I am Hispanic since I was born in Puerto Rico and our Spanish language comes from Spain. 


Coming to United States from the US territory of Puerto Rico at the age of four was fun and exciting all the way up to when I started my 5th grade. Then all the drama started. Kids would call me names, such as 'spic', low-class, 'wanna be' white, poor, welfare kid….all of that and much more. I grew up wondering how people could be so cruel and unfair. I would go home crying for one thing or another, being pushed at school, hair being pulled, and lunches being taken…NO ONE listening when I would have my say. I was feeling so frustrated.


I thank God for my father, who is 79 years old and still my dad/my friend/my hero…Many times I would explain what has happened or how people would not look at me as being just a girl, or look at my heart, my face and just who I was.  My totally Spanish name said it all…PUERTO RICAN…SPANISH…so very sad and it was my dad who made me realize that this world was full of prejudiced, racist and unkind people. His best advice was….never let them see your tears or sadness, and work as hard as you can to be the best you can be. Even I had the right to reach the stars!!!! I still live these words. I still work as hard as I can and believe me. sometimes I feel I have touched the stars.


Many after-school jobs made me feel I was unworthy and low. The comments, the looks...  all of it until I reached high school.  I had great grades, not many friends and didn’t dare enlist in any sports for fear of being rejected. Then it hit me…I wasn’t the only one.  I couldn’t fight the world to change it and I wasn’t alone, many just like me were going through the same thing so I took one real look at myself and decided to be THE BEST PUERTO RICAN EVER.  I couldn’t change who I was and neither could my dad. I decided to turn the cards around….I SMILED….I APPLIED FOR GOOD JOBS AND FELT PROUD OF WHO I WAS.


At the age of 18 I was already working for Chase Manhattan Bank. Not everyone appreciated me yet, but I was told that I was the best at my job.  Twelve years later, I decided to join Labor Ready, Inc, an agency that helps people get jobs and support themselves. Wow...from a customer service position to Specialist Coordinator!  I had come a long way from being the 'spic', the Puerto Rican girl, the low-class girl to a respected Spanish lady who offered the best to the community. And I owe it all to my father who pushed me, and who told me I was worth more than a diamond.  I know many don’t have that kind of support.


I got married and have four great children whom I’ve taught the values of home, respect and courage. They have been to college, have great jobs and houses. Even my youngest who is 18 years old just graduated from Parris Island as a Marine on April 20, 2012. He signed up for eight years to serve this country. I miss him dearly. I am very proud of him and we are all proud to be Puerto Rican.


I hope many would one day realize WE CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE …WE CAN’T CHANGE THE WORLD, but we CAN change how we think about ourselves.  WE CAN ALSO REACH THE SKY IF WE WANT TO! I am who I am today because I learned to turn my face, smile and keep in mind that when people don’t take the time to dig deeper, it is their loss. Even the ugliest cover of a book might be the most beautiful book to ever read.


Magaly Soto