Efren Ibarra - Mexico

My name is Efren Ibarra. I am currently an undergraduate majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Mathematics and Physics. I am currently involved in biomedical research where I use stem cells to help treat patients with arthritis. Although my research and academics keep me engaged, I struck time (not gold) and had the opportunity this summer to immerse myself in deep rural territory.

I spent this summer doing volunteer work at a ranch. Now colloquially you may be thinking, “dude ranch” but this was very much unlike that. As a livestock-raising operation, there was no room for catering to tourists. There was plenty of work to be done.

The ranch was located in Cuchuveracho, Sonora, MX, about 10 miles outside the major city Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX. The ranch was open range, meaning cattle were allowed to graze the lands mostly unsupervised. The ranch, like many others in Mexico and Southwestern US, had diversified operations which included farming. Seasonal crops and those for feeding the cattle are grown in arable land and making sure the crops are healthy and hydrated was one of my main duties.

Jose Angel Ibarra, my grandfather and proud cattleman (vaquero), headed the operation. With decades of experience in open range livestock-raising, his instructions were followed meticulously and religiously. The cattle grazing his land was surveyed and checked for branding, a process that is arduous and time consuming, but with my help and the other vaqueros’, we were able to survey a considerable number of cows.

One evening, an unbranded calf managed to stray from the corral close to headquarters. Luis, a vaquero at the ranch, and I rode out on horseback to find the calf. We had to make sure it did not venture onto another proprietor’s land for unmarked cattle could be wrongfully seized by other landowners. Luis rode inexhaustibly. Although the sun was slowly waning, he refused to return back to the homestead. I respected his decision and followed wearily. We searched for hours, buoyantly looking for a calf with one distinct mark under its belly. When all hope seemed lost to me, Luis was calm; and in this poised manner he and I finally found the calf stranded on a cliffside late that evening.

This instance in particular left a profound impression on the work vaqueros do and the care they exercise for their cattle. Not only did it ignite a retrospective look at the time-oriented world I find myself in day to day, but it reminded me of the interest and care we should practice towards other beings, both human and not.

Gladly, only a minor part of my summer was spent planning for the upcoming year. Instead, I turned my desk-slaved world upside down and took a chance to step out of my shoes. Toiling under the heat of summer and plunging into an unfamiliar culture only bore fruits of gratitude and perspective.