Hero Central: Hispanic Woman of the Year

2:33 PM, Oct 1, 2010   |    comments
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Margarita Romo
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Dade City, Florida -- Hispanics around the country are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and as you may know, the Bay area is home to a large concentration of Hispanics.

Migrant workers play an important role in the economy and a Dade City woman is helping Farm workers assimilate to a new country.

"I used to cry all the time as we tried to figure out what to do and how to help the people," said Margarita Romo, a farm worker advocate.

Romo is the founder and executive director of Farm Workers Self Help Incorporated, an organization that helps facilitate self development for farm workers.   

"We're not just here to give people clothes and food; we're here to fight for the rights of the people," Romo said.

Rights like getting paid for working in the fields around the Bay area. Romo says migrant farm workers are often the victims of "wage theft."

"Some contractors will hire 10 to 50 Mexicans to work and let's say now there's not a lot of agriculture, so they are doing construction and then they don't pay them. Six weeks later they run them off and get another group," Romo said.

Romo has helped lead the fight to educate farm workers, to help them develop their own voice. 

"We educate them so they can speak English so they will not be bound to anybody because that's slavery. You know, if you don't know the language you don't even know the name of your boss' company," Romo said. 

Romo has been helping farm workers in the Bay area for the past 30 years and was recently honored as the Woman of the Year by Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.

"We've gotten so many from the community talking to us after the fact, we've gotten so much feedback, wonderful feedback and a lot of people say, 'We're so glad you recognized Margarita, she's helped me here, and helped me there,'" said Patricia Gomez, a spokesman for Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.

Romo is concerned that farm workers who are not citizens of the United States will be forced to leave the country.

"No American is going to go pick blueberries for 50 cents a bucket, or scratch the earth for peanuts for 75 cents for a big bucket of peanuts. Nobody is going to do that, not Americans, so if we don't have a good relation between the farmers and farm workers, there's not going to be anything planted,"  Romo said.

The organization has a park, learning center and medical clinic in Dade City and Romo is leading a group of Hispanic volunteers who are getting ready to participate in the Susan G. Komen "Race for Cure" event in St. Petersburg this weekend. 

"Susan G. Komen has been a great advancer of health and education for us and we're so proud to be able to participate in the race," Romo said.

If you would like to nominate someone to be a Hero, please contact me at mbeal@wtsp.com

Melvin Beal, 10 News

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