Meat for Money, Ropes for Fun

By: Jaisline M. Olmeda Rivera

Rappelling, hiking, books and social work do not seem to go with someone who makes money for a living by watching live animals entering into a building and leaving inside boxes as packaged meat every day.

However, for Enrique A. Cruz Ortiz, an agronomist from Sabana Grande, these are perfectly compatible activities.

“Supervising meat production and management is a really important position which I try to fulfill in the coolest way I can with the help of my teammates,” Enrique says while smiling at his co-workers.

Brian Delgado, one of his fellow workers, could not resist commenting about his work experience with Enrique. “It is always fun to work with Quique, as we call him. We can do our job comfortably while he supervises our moves and tell us all kinds of funny stories,” he added after Enrique walked out of the office for a moment.

For people in general, working in a place where animals are killed to make food may be a little overwhelming and even horrible, but Enrique assures it is not a big deal.

“The key for working here is to learn to see animals as an agricultural product and their importance as a food source. If we don’t kill them, we cannot eat; plus I really like meat,” the tall man smiles while rubbing his belly.

With his lab coat, gloves and boots, Enrique works inspecting the cows’ carcasses in the freezer after the slaughter.

With his lab coat, gloves and boots, Enrique works inspecting the cows’ carcasses in the freezer after the slaughter.

Prior to working as the Federal State Inspector at Santiago’s Livestock Slaughterhouse, Enrique had multiple jobs.

The experiences of cleaning pig pens when he studied agronomy at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, being an agricultural products seller, a home garden technician, traveling to almost all the cities of Puerto Rico to sell seeds, and many other jobs he cannot remember, have made him an extremely versatile person.

“When you have to drive for more than 10 straight hours around the island to sell seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation stuff in different farms, you have to do wonders to entertain yourself,” Enrique chuckles.

He confesses to be a book lover who has listened to more than 250 audio books. “God bless audio books! If it wasn’t for them, I would be dead.”

Because Enrique’s life was getting a little monotonous after he graduated, he decided to make it more interesting and entertaining.

“My brother crashed outside one of our windows after trying to do rappelling for the first time from the roof of our house. Mom was really upset, so she made me and my two brothers take a professional rappelling and hiking course at Bayamón,” tells Enrique while scratching the back of his head.

That is how he began to do rappelling and hiking.

Watching some photos from his expeditions and noticing the fun he has had by climbing mountains and walls of rocks, you could not possibly imagine he could ever get bored.

Enrique made clear he could never be so joyful without the presence of his family, his most valuable possession.

Born in May 1, 1984 as the oldest son of Sandra Ortiz and Norberto Cruz, Enrique has two younger brothers and one sister.

Norberto, 28, Gabriel, 26, and Natalia, 25, have been his “partners in crime,” as Enrique likes to call them, since each one of them were born.

When you hear Enrique talk about his parents, you perceive the respect and pride he feels for them.

His role model has been his father, for whom he decided to study agronomy at the UPRM, the same profession as his father’s, after he was not accepted by the Department of Computer Engineering.

Even when Enrique’s first plan was not to study agronomy, later on, he discovered how much he liked this career.

“I fell in love with this profession when I found out about the importance of this field of study. Food will be always a prior necessity for all of us.”

Enrique’s parents taught him and his brothers to be good and hard-working people and also encouraged them to disseminate those values by helping the needy.

For this reason, Enrique dedicates a great part of his time to participating in the Leadership, Experience and Opportunity organization, better known as the LEO Club.

LEO clubs are a program of the Lions Club, which is the largest service club organization with more than 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members around the world who bring help to the communities.

As the Multiple District LEO president, Enrique organizes different activities with all the clubs on the southwest part of Puerto Rico. They recollect eyeglasses, visit the elderly to make them company, give food to the homeless people and presents to the orphans and many other things to make this world a better place.

This may seem ordinary, but it is gigantic the quantity of people who need help. “Nobody should suffer from hunger or cold or loneliness while there are so many people in this world who can help,” Enrique says.

With every part of his life he tries to expand his knowledge, social interactions and professional experiences to maintain a jovial attitude in every situation of his life.

“With each experience I get hiking or helping others, I feel bigger and alive and I don’t want to stop feeling like that,” he says.

Enrique rests by the river during one of his hiking expeditions at Susúa Forest in Sabana Grande.

Enrique rests by the river during one of his hiking expeditions at Susúa Forest in Sabana Grande.

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