Elba Cabeza de Baca y Gallegos (1918-2010)

 

A photo of Elba courtesy of her nephew George Cabeza de Baca who received it from her and a photo taken by Claire Ortiz Hill in downtown Las Vegas in November 2003

 

Elba Cabeza de Baca was born on September 14, 1918 and passed away on June 13, 2010. She lived near Las Vegas, New Mexico. She was very dedicated to preserving the history and traditions of Spanish New Mexico. For one thing, she wrote and published herself numerous little books about Spanish New Mexican life. She referred to Fabiola Cabeza de Baca y Delgado as her favorite aunt. She called herself a Folklorist.

I hope someone will send me more biographical information about her. I own the following books by her:

1. Los Hermanos de la Luz or Brothers of Light

2. The Christmas Season in New Mexico

3. The Shadow of the Cross and Other Tales

4. Scary Campfire Tales

5. Adivinanzas or Riddles, Original Spanish, English Translation

6. A Look at the Past

7. Dichos, Refranes y Proverbios (Proverbs and Wise Sayings)

8. Legends of a Hermit

9. Customs and Traditions, Booklet II

10. Customs and Traditions, Courtship and Marriage, Booklet III

11. Man's Days are as grass. The Wind sweeps and He is Gone!

 

Elba was the great grandchild of Tomas Cabeza de Baca and Estefana Delgado y Baca and the grandchild of Manuel (1852 - 1915) and Florencia Lopez (1858 - 1881), who married in 1880. Florencia died in childbirth. In about 1883, Manuel married Juanita Pino (June 24,1859-June 21,1933). According to George Cabeza de Baca's book A Genealogy Record of the Cabeza de Baca Family of New Mexico, Manuel was a lawyer and also editor of "El Independiente", a Las Vegas newspaper. He was educated at St Michael's College in Santa Fe and the Jesuit College in Las Vegas, NM. He studied law under Twitchell and was admitted to the bar in 1880. In 1883 he was elected City Attorney of Las Vegas, NM. He was also appointed County Attorney. In 1886 he was elected member of the New Mexico House of Representatives for San Miguel County and was chosen Speaker of the House. He also served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1889-1901. He wrote a first hand account of the life of the notorious villain Vicente Silva. It was Manuel who, through his many sources, found the body of Vicente and claimed the $3000 reward. A family story says that Manuel was "switched" by his father Tomas Dolores for joining the Masons.

Elba's parents were Florencio C de Baca (1881 - 1966) and Juanita Gallegos (1887 - 1984). She was born in Santa Fe and died in Las Vegas.

In her book A Look at the Past, Elba writes: "My grandfather, Manuel C. de Baca, was born in May of 1853. His parents were Tomas C. de Baca and Estefanita Delgado. He was the oldest of seven children. He and his brothers had different occupations. Manuel was a lawyer, Daniel was a barber, Ezequiel was a politician, Nicasio was a merchant, Graziano was a cattle rancher and Antonino ran a meat market. The youngest child, a daughter name Trinidad, was autistic. Manuel received his education at St Michael's College in Santa Fe and the Jesuit College in Las Vegas. He studied law under his friend, Emerson Twitchell, and was admitted to the bar in 1880. In 1880 he married Florencia Lopez. In February of 1881 she died giving birth to my father, Florencio. About four years later, Manuel married Juanita Pino from Santa Fe. They had one daughter, Eloisa. My mother described Manuel thus: "He was very handsome, with deep blue eyes. he always wore a diamond pin on his tie and he carried a cane with a gold head. He usually wore grey or black suits." In 1883, Manuel was elected city attorney for the city of Las Vegas. He was also appointed county attorney. In 1886 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives for San Miguel County and was chosen speaker of that body. I have heard people say that he was a very kind-hearted and generous man. He was always ready to lend a helping hand to those who needed help. For years he fought the infamous Silva Gang that terrorized Las Vegas and the surrounding country. ... From 1889 to 1901 Manuel was New Mexico Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1904 he served as representative from Guadalupe County. He also engaged in cattle raising.... In the year 1915, when my grandfather was dying, a refugee priest from Mexico, who my grandfather had befriended rushed to his bedside. He addressed Manuel thus: "Señor Licenciado (your honor), may administer the last rites of the church?" Manuel unable to speak, just nodded. The priest anointed him and he died a peaceful death."