The first veterinary school was founded in 1962 in Lyon, France, but it was not until 1910 that the first female veterinarians graduated from the Cornell & Chicago Veterinary College in the USA. Only one of them, Florence Kimball, actually continued into this field of work and even by the 1960s only 5% of veterinarians were women.
In the late 1980s, 12-year-old Lisbeth Vasquez Garcia from Mexico City told her family she wanted to become a vet. They all laughed and told her it was impossible; that was a man’s job and she should set her sights on something different. Ignoring this advice, she followed her dream and enrolled in the veterinary program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Her male professors were still coming to terms with women studying in this field and held beliefs that they were not strong enough to achieve parts of the course, particularly when dealing with larger farm animals. Lisbeth worked hard to prove them wrong and gained their respect.
Playa has embraced me – it is a place where women can grow, although women native to the region are not always given equality or respect. But I think things are changing and women are beginning to open their eyes more and more to the possibilities of what they can achieve.”
Lisbeth Vasquez Garcia
Two years before completing her studies she fell pregnant. Juggling between being a mother, finishing the last two years of study and fulfilling the obligatory year of free social services work, was difficult – but she did it.
Lisbeth came to Playa three years ago, arriving with only her husband and her car on a quest to find a better quality of life for their family. The daily four-hour commute in heavy traffic for work, and increasing anxieties about the safety of their young children in Mexico City had been taking their toll.
Within a week Lisbeth was offered work and she is now a full-time veterinarian at Cuatro Patas, a dog hotel, daycare and veterinary hospital located in Avenida Paseo Tikal.
“Playa has embraced me,” she told me. “It is a place where women can grow, although native women to the region are not always given equality or respect. But I think that things are changing and women are beginning to open their eyes more and more to the possibilities of what they can achieve.”
I asked her what she found difficult in life and she explained the heartache she felt when an animal had to be put to sleep. “The day I put an animal to sleep and feel nothing is the day I must stop being a vet”.