San Miguel woman found underground in Baja Californa Sur!
By Jane Onstott
Far from a crisis, Jimena Alvarado’s days spent underground are a source of pride and gainful employment. Recruited a few days before graduating from UASLP (Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí), the 23-year-old is in charge of underground mines at El Boleo Mining and Metallurgy in Santa Rosalia. A joint Korean-Canadian venture, the company has resuscitated the installations originally begun by the Germans in the late 19th century.
Jimena’s excellent grades helped her land the geologist job. She begins work at 6am, examining the previous day’s cuts and taking samples. During the rest of her 12-hour shift she examines potential sites, updates databases, works on plans and projections, and makes maps.
Growing up both in San Miguel and a ranch outside of the city, Alvarado was first drawn to geology at age eight when she saw the film Dante’s Peak. In the movie, a volcano’s imminent eruption threatens a small town; the volcanologist hero and the town’s mayor work together to avert catastrophe. Alvarado was hooked, and her earliest passion was to become a volcanologist herself. At university, she was assigned internships at gold mines in Querétaro, Chihuahua and Durango. It was then that her focus switched from volcanology to mining.
A final internship in Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, lead to her current job at the international company, which mines copper, cobalt, manganese and zinc. Most of the managers and engineers are Canadians and Americans; the Korean administrators use English as well, giving Alvarado plenty of opportunities to improve the basic English skills she arrived with.
Getting the Low Down on Mining Life
As a volunteer with Jóvenes Adelante, the San Miguel not-for-profit that helped Jimena Alvarado attend university with a four-and-a-half-year scholarship, I talked with the young geologist during her recent visit to San Miguel. I asked how her family feels about her career and living so far from home. “When she was young, my mother wanted to study accounting in Querétaro, but her parents wouldn’t allow it. So when I wanted to study in San Luis Potosí, my mother fully supported my decision. She wanted me to follow my dream,” she said.
And so she has, embarking on an exciting and fulfilling career with loads of potential for success. She described her current situation: “I like the place and I like my job. I enjoy the responsibility and I’m learning a lot.” Her plans for the future include obtaining an advanced degree in structural geology, perhaps in Spain.
What about being a woman in a field traditionally dominated by men? Alvarado said that girls interested in geology should not be intimidated. Two of the three geologists on her team are women, and her company employs female truck drivers (driving 70-ton loads of minerals) because they are more cautious than men. The administration is open to the idea of women miners as well, although so far none have applied.
The Next Generation
A Jóvenes Adelante (JA) scholarship enabled Jimena Alvarado to concentrate on challenging courses such as calculus, physics and advanced algebra without having to take a night job. In addition to receiving monthly stipends, scholarship students receive donated computers as available and counseling and tutoring as needed. Each student is paired with a mentor, and JA events provide opportunities for social and career networking.
Jóvenes Adelante is wrapping up the 2013 selection process. Highly qualified applicants are on hold as the organization searches for last-minute donations in order to grant a few more scholarships. Your donation now could make an immediate difference in the future of a dedicated and deserving student like Jimena Alvarado. More than a gift; it’s an investment in Mexico’s future. For information on sponsoring one of this year’s hopeful applicants, or volunteering, visit www.jovenesadelante.org or write firstname.lastname@example.org.