The Case for Elfego Baca, Hispanic Hero
By Stan Sager
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ďI will show them there is at least one Mexican in the country who is not afraid of a Texas cowboy.Ē Having drawn the line, teenager Elfego Baca backed up his words with his six guns. Nobody, but nobody, even Texans, would any longer subject the peaceful Mexican settlers of the New Mexico frontier to abuse, mutilation or humiliation. It took Baca just thirty-six hours in the fall of 1884 to earn his reputation as savior of the Hispanics of the Territory of New Mexico. When the gun-smoke had blown away, the eighty Texans who had poured over 4,000 bullets and a few charges of dynamite into the hut where the teen had taken refuge, toasted his survival with drinks at Milliganís Whiskey Bar. In the sixty years that followed, Elfego made himself into a lawyer often known for sleaze, a politician suspected of dealing under the table, a guy who liked his liquor too much, a bankrupt, and the object of a $30,000 reward by Pancho Villa. But why? Why did the hero fall from grace?
Stan Sager has laid out the reasons for Bacaís heroism and why he later destroyed his own reputation. Sagerís book looks into the heroís childhood in Kansas to find the roots of both his valor and his vulnerability. It tells of the events of his young manhood that made it necessary for the kid who grew up in Topeka speaking English only, to fit himself into the Spanish-speaking community of Socorro the only way he knew how--by bravado and bluster. It relates the bizarre activities that led him to lose his reputation as a hero. And finally, it explains why the hero self-destructed, and it pleas for his forgiveness.
Sager is a retired New Mexico attorney who has tried lawsuits and argued cases all over the state. Heís the author of several published articles, including Elfego Baca. He co-founded a law firm in Albuquerque, which grew into one of the largest in New Mexico and has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture. He was a State Bar Commissioner, and has received numerous awards for his service to low income persons, including the Professionalism Award, as well as the LaFollette Pro Bono Award and others. He was given the Judge Woodrow B. Seals Award by the Perkins School of Theology, SMU, for service to the church, the community and the world for setting up an internal audit department within The United Methodist Church, writing denominational fiscal policies, and his work on behalf of those in poverty. In retirement, he serves on the State Supreme Courtís Commission on Access to Justice, recently formed to help the poor of the state obtain access to justice. Stan has contributed historical articles to State Bar publications, and has written articles on disability for various magazines and newspapers. Today he speaks often on Elfego Baca and on issues relating to Navajo mythology and theology.
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