Viva Elfego!

Viva Elfego!

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Sunstone Press 2008 (POD)

If you were asked to name some fictional Hispanic heroes of Westerns, what would be your response? Unfortunately, I can only think of the Cisco Kid and Zorro. Pretty pathetic, right? How about "historical" Hispanic Western heroes? One might think of California's Joaquin Murrieta (the TV show, Big Valley, even did an episode on him). How about Elfego Baca and Gregorio Cortez? Who, most people would ask? If you are old enough to have grown up with Walt Disney, you might recall the 1950s TV series on Baca. And if you are a music or movie aficionado, you might know the ballad, El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez or saw the 1984 movie, The Ballard Of Gregorio Cortez. My guess is your local public and/or school library wont be much help.

However, through "POD" (print on demand), Stan Sager's 2008 well researched and objective treatment of the New Mexico legend is available and all libraries should place it next to the Spur Award winner but thin 112 page 1994 Incredible Elfego Baca by Howard Bryan. You might also check and see if you have Leon Metz's Shooters.

Although surprisingly obscure, next to the O.K. Corral, Elfego Baca's 1884 shootout against eighty Texas cowboys is probably the frontier's most dramatic gunfight. And those readers who do know of the "Frisco Shootout" and perhaps his lawman days probably are not aware of much of the rest of Baca's illustrious and fascinating life from a self educated criminal lawyer, involvement with Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution, challenging the white power elite, participating in state politics, to being a champion of Mexican-Americans--he died at the age of 80 in 1945. This biography reinforces and reminds us as to why the Disney mini-series was titled, The Nine Lives Of Elfego Baca. Besides the handicaps of being Hispanic without speaking Spanish when ethnicity and color really mattered, the author even provides convincing evidence that Elfego may have suffered from PTSD most his life due to the shootout experience when he was only nineteen.

Of the "Baca" literature I know of, this book should become the definitive biography. It corrects some historical errors and rights some wrongs based on subjective historical revisionism. With Elfego Baca's tarnished reputation burnished back to the brightness it deserves, I'd be quite surprised if one of those young Latino "hunk" movie stars, recognizing the drama and entertainment potential of such a heroic life and, most importantly, Baca's symbolic importance to Latino history and culture, hasn't already secured the book's movie/TV rights.

Evidently, before 2008, the only Baca recognition was a plain sign at the small, unassuming Heritage Park in Socorro, New Mexico. Now, west of Socorro, at Francisco Plaza in the town of Reserve, population 387, where the famous shootout actually took place, a memorial and larger than life statue of Elfego Baca by sculptor James N. Muir (Lanterns Along The Path: The Allegorical Art of James N. Muir) now proudly stands. "Viva Elfego!!!" 279 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, HS librarian, Arkansas City, KS

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