Maria Obeldina “Oby” Soria honored by Tulare County League of Mexican-American Women for Women’s History Month
TULARE COUNTY – The Soria sisters of Lindsay are well known in Fresno and Lindsay. The four woman collectively have earned four bachelor’s degrees, three master’s degrees, a law degree and a doctorate. They all currently hold elected offices and all volunteer their time to have an impact on their communities. What many might not know is that they have a younger brother who also holds a master’s degree. Even less realize that none of that would have been possible without their mother, a strong, hard working woman who weathered the fields of agriculture work, was deported several times and despite long days of back breaking work, still found time to volunteer in her community and ensure that her children would have a better life than she did.
On Saturday, March 10, Maria Obeldina Soria Zamudio was honored by the Tulare County League of Mexican-American Women in honor of Women’s History Month. During the luncheon at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia, Maria Obeldina, “Oby” for short, was the keynote speaker for the event where she, along with her husband and five children, told their story.
Oby was born in a village in Michoacán, Mexico. In search of a better life her parents moved the Zamudio family to San Luis, Rio Colorado, Sonora Mexico when she was very young. There the family had more opportunity to thrive. Oby had the opportunity to attend school and graduate from the ‘Secundaria’ with a vocational certificate. Her mother wanted her to continue in school, however schooling was expensive for them. Thus, at the age of 16 her father brought her, along with two of her sisters to Tulare County to work in the fields to earn and send money back to the family in Mexico.
Oby would recall and tell her children stories of picking oranges, grapes and olives as a teenager. She also recalls being deported a couple of times due to her immigration status. In 1978, she met her husband, Jose Soria, at a ‘baile de Los Bukis’ and shortly there after married him at Sacred Heart Church in Lindsay, Calif. Their journey together has been full of love, happiness, challenges, but most importantly, faith and perseverance.
Jose and Oby have five children, Laura, Esmeralda, Perla, Ivet and Jose, Jr. Both always worked in the fields, packing sheds, and at times were self-employed. Their work and sacrifice was in efforts to give their children what they needed to succeed in life. They believe in the American Dream. The Soria’s raised their children to go to school, work hard, help those in need and believe in God. While Jose was busy at work, Oby was also always working and keeping up with her wife and mother duties. Yet, she managed to make time to ensure her children were keeping up with ‘la tarea.’ Oby always made time to go to parent conferences, school meetings, and was even part of the Migrant Regional Parent Advisory Committee for many years. With an active role in the Migrant committee she learned a lot about the education system in America. So much that she decided to go back to school herself and get her GED and take English classes. Her goal was to become a school bus driver or post office worker. However, she always put herself second to her children. She wanted her children to go to school, graduate from high school and go to college. She always told her children to have faith, work hard, get a good education, but most importantly – she told them not to forget where hey came from. Her famous quote to her children was “¡Echenle ganas!”, which translates to “try harder” in English. The Soria’s would take their children to work in the fields on the weekends and long school breaks. They did it, not to earn more money, rather to teach their children that fieldwork was difficult and they hoped that would motivate their children to do better in school. Oby wanted her children to have opportunities that she never had. She wanted her children to have better jobs than hers. She wanted her children to make a difference in their personal life and the community at large.
Because of her perseverance and unconditional support, her oldest daughter Laura graduated from Lindsay High School as a teen mother. Although Laura was a single teen parent, Oby helped her raise her son in order to allow her to enroll at Cal State Bakersfield. In 2001, Laura graduated CSUB with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and in 2003 with a master’s in public administration. Later in 2012 she earned a second master’s degree in school counseling. Now, Laura works as a Counselor at Lincoln Elementary School in Lindsay. Laura is also a member of the Lindsay City Council. She is married and has four children.
The second daughter, Esmeralda graduated at the top of her class from Lindsay High School in 2000 and enrolled at UC Berkeley as a Gates Millennium Scholar. She graduated with a degree in political science and Chicano studies. Upon graduation Esmeralda began working in public service at the local, state and national levels. She was very passionate about helping others, particularly those in underserved and disfranchised communities. In 2011 she received a law degree from UC Davis School of Law. Esmeralda has worked for senators, assembly members, the White House and numerous non-profits. Interacting with Latino elected officials sparked her interests in politics. Now, Esmeralda is serving as president of the Fresno City Council and overseeing the fifth largest city in California. She is the youngest councilmember and just the second Latina to serve on the council. She is also a professor at Fresno City College.
The third daughter, Perla Soria graduated valedictorian in her class at Lindsay High School in 2003. Perla, also had a full ride scholarship to UC Berkeley where in 2009 she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and Chicano studies. She immediately enrolled at University of Southern California and received a master’s degree in school counseling. With her desire to someday make a great impact, Perla proceeded obtain a doctorate in educational leadership from Fresno State. Now, Perla is a school counselor in Porterville. She is on her second term as a member of the Lindsay Unified School District Board of Trustees. Perla is married and has three children.
The last daughter, Ivet Soria graduated from Lindsay High School in 2006. In 2010 she graduated from UC Santa Cruz where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Community Studies. In 2011 she participated in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Los Angeles. She has worked for non-profits and has a passion for youth development and leadership. Ivet returned home, which has allowed her to coach youth sports and mentor youth in the community. Ivet transmits her energy, passion, and dedication to anyone she comes in contact with. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Lindsay Local Hospital Special District, and most importantly as Oby’s more than full-time caregiver.
Jose Jr., graduated from Lindsay High School in 2007. He received a UC Regents scholarship to attend UC Berkeley. In 2011 he received a bachelor’s degree in economics. Upon graduation Jose returned home in hopes to work with youth in the school systems. Last year, Jose received a master’s in education from University of Southern California and he is now a teacher at Sycamore Valley Academy, a charter school in Visalia.
Oby’s husband, Jose Sr., continues to work full-time at a local orange packinghouse as a supervisor to provide for Oby and himself. The support and faith that Oby has had on her husband has also allowed Jose to thrive as a small business entrepreneur with a food and catering business.
All of the Soria’s educational, professional, and community work success is attributed to Maria Obeldina Soria Zamudio. A woman that despite socioeconomic challenges, worked hard, and always had faith, never gave up. In 2015, Oby was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. Slowly, Oby’s illness is progressing; something sad to witness. Oby – a happy, relentless and hard working lady leaves a legacy behind that is reflected in her children and the communities they serve.