Honoring the “vaquera or cowgirl” figure was something very important to me. When doing research on “la vaquera”, it was difficult for me to find a real vaquera. All I came across when looking up the “vaquera” was either 1.) an overly sexualized image of an exotic (Mexican) woman or 2.) a Halloween costume of a cowgirl. There was no image of a strong, beautiful, authentic person that I could reference. The “vaquera” is not some make believe character but a real person. Similar to the vaquero, the vaquera tradition also influenced the origin of the cowboy and cowgirl we see today. Vaqueras are our original cowgirl. Although many of the women who worked the land were unable to participate in the early techniques of herding cattle because women were not allowed to have the same roles as the cowboy, they still influenced the tradition we see today. The legacy of the vaquera or cowgirl will endure for years to come.
I am proud to say, I come from a family of vaqueros and vaqueras. I have come across MANY cowgirls in my life, young, old, tall, short, you name it! I have seen young girls barrel race to grandmother’s on their horses hearding cattle. The story of the vaquera is often overshadowed by the vaquero and cowboy. Mi Reina Mobile Boutique wanted to make sure we tell #herstory, #ourstory of the vaquera by the cowgirls themselves!
Q & A with La Vaquera & #MobileReina : Yolanda Aros
Mrs. Yolanda Aros is a true vaquera at heart and #mobilereina. She is one of the first cowgirls I have encountered and continues to impact the rodeo scene. Although, my family and I have known Mrs. Aros for years, I wanted to learn about #herstory and why and how she started to invest in rodeo.
Q.: Did you grow up being a cowgirl?
Y.A.: I grew up in Tubac, Arizona and attended Nogales High School. I was raised by my grandparents, Santos and Santiago Gastelum. I grew up in a rodeo family. My grandfather was a Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) member, which is now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). He taught me all about horses. I had a white mare, named Mora. Mora would help with chores. We miked cows and my grandmother made cheese and quesadillas. I would saddle my mare, Mora and go sell them in the little town of Tubac. I really enjoyed that. My brother and I would chop wood for the stove and we also went out to find dry trees, cut them down with an axe and either drag them with the mare or put them in a wheel barrel.
*In 1955, Yolanda moved to Tucson, Arizona.
Q.: Did you compete in the rodeos?
Y.A.: I did not compete in rodeos because during my younger years, girls did not rope. I wished I learned because believe me, I would have been out there roping (and winning).
[Yet… there was one time Yolanda did rope! According to her daughter Julee Aros-Thornton and Mrs. Aros- she did have the chance to compete.]
J.A-T.: My dad had to work out of town one of the weekends during one of the rodeos. So, my mom stepped in to rope with me and Victor. Victor won the all-around that rodeo 🙂. That was the only time she roped. She had been watching all these years, she just knew how to get the job done!
Y.A. Never ever did I rope in my life! One of the participant’s father came and said they would find a good rope for me. It is a good thing George had come home from one of his rodeos and he had extra shirts in his camper (so I could change into)! So, I roped for Julee and got two feet! But she broke the barrier, other wise we would of won the go round. Then, when Victor and I came out, we drew a bad steer. But me being unexperienced, it took me awhile to throw my rope…but I got two feet again! Believe it or not Victor won the all all-around!
*”all-around” occurs when a rodeo participant competes multiple competitions.
Q: How long has your family been involved in Rodeos? Tell me about you and your husband of 59 years, Mr. Victor Aros. You both raised an entire rodeo team!
[In 1957, Mr. and Mrs. Aros married and they built their home on a 2.5-acre plot off South Nogales Highway and built their own roping arena.]
Y.A.: All of our children: Zenaida, George, Julee and Victor participated in the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA), which is a non-profit organization that has been in existence for over 50 years. The AJRA is comprised of cowboys & cowgirls between the ages of 4-18 years and is committed and dedicated to developing Arizona’s youth in the sport of rodeo, as well as preserving the western lifestyle.(www.arizonajuniorrodeo.com). When my little ones started to learn how to ride, they also learned how to use the rope. Our son, Victor was only 5 years old when he won his first Junior Rodeo!
For kids, rodeo is the best thing because they don’t have time to get in trouble after school. They come home from school, do their homework, eat a snack, change into their roping gear and go out and get the horses saddled. When my husband, Vic would get home from work, all of the them would rope. My sons would practice calf roping, while my daughters practiced breakaway roping, goat tying and barrel racing. I would help with opening chutes! All of our children did very well in the Junior Rodeos and we also went to many jackpot ropings.
Q. What do you want people to understand about rodeo?
Y.A.: Rodeos are alot of fun, you meet alot of nice people. We were always happy to go to them. It was very important for my husband and my children to practice rodeo. Zenaida, George, Julee and Victor did very well in the Junior Rodeos and College Rodeos. They still compete. Both George and Victor participated in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), which is the is the premier championship rodeo event in the United States!
*The NFR is like the super bowl of rodeo!
*Today, Yolanda continues to support her rodeo family. Her husband, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren participate in rodeos throughout the country. Her grandson, Cesar de la Cruz is competing at the Tucson Rodeo as a professional Team Roper. Make sure to check him out!
Thank you Mrs. Aros for sharing your story with us. You truly are an inspiration!
If you’re lucky, you might come across Yolanda at one of the local rodeos. If you do have that opportunity to meet her, make sure you sit next to her, as she has many more stories about rodeo and life to share!