The search for old buttons, flyers, posters, pamphlets, and books is one way to better understand once prominent individuals and historical events. One usually begins the process with a subject in mind. There are times, however, when an artifact leads the researcher in a whole new direction—or provides details into long-forgotten events or individuals.
Some time ago I cam across a wonderful little pamphlet, Colorado: Latin American Personalities, published in 1959, that profiles 75 Hispanic leaders in the post-World War II period. Note that it uses the term Latin American to describe those with Spanish or Mexican roots.
Reprinted here is a portrait of Toby J. Baca, the first Hispanic mayor pro tem of Trinidad, Colorado, a small coal-mining town on the Colorado-New Mexico border. Part of a family long established in the region, Baca worked initially as a union member and then became a prominent business person.
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Toby J. Baca, Sr., was elected Mayor Pro Tem of the Trinidad, Colorado, City Council in 1957. He was the first Spanish-speaking person ever to hold the honor. And behind that achievement lies the heritage of the Baca family, one of the early pioneer families of Colorado.
Baca was born in 1900 at Hoehne, Colorado, in Las Animas County. There he attended school.
In 1917 he went off to work as telegrapher for the Sante Fe Railroad. He is a member of the [Order of] Railroad Telegraphers [an early union] to this day.
From 1920 until 1925, he managed a mercantile establishment in Raton, N.M., and then spent a year as a clothing store manager in Sante Fe, N.M. He moved to Flagstaff. Ariz., to manage a similar store.
In 1930, he decided to enter business for himself. He operated the El Rancho de Baca Trading Post until 1942. In 1936, he purchased Hotel Baca and Balboa Beer Garden and Café, which is still operates.
Today he owns rental property in Trinidad, has two ranches and is engaged in farming in Colorado and New Mexico.
Widely known in Trinidad business circles and as a member of the local Elks and Eagles lodges for a quarter century, Baca was persuaded by friends to run for the City Council. In 1950, he won a term on the council from Ward No. 1. He served until 1954.
In 1957, he again won election to the council and received the distinction of being named Mayor Pro Tem.
He is the father of seven children, the oldest already have earned college degrees.
Baca has served as a director of the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, president and director of the Las Animas County Association, and other civic and business organizations.