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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
February 16, 2004
Volume 39, Number 12


By Carolyn Gonzales

Castillo's computer-designed rendering of a proposed plan for the Elfego Baca Memorial and Old West Museum.

University of New Mexico assistant professor Tim Castillo, School of Architecture and Planning, in December was asked to come up with some plans quickly for an Elfego Baca Memorial and Old West Museum, slated for construction in Reserve, New Mexico. Reserve is located in Catron County, near the state's southern border with Arizona.

The board of directors of The Elfego Baca Project, Inc., decided they wanted to promote Baca's story and bring awareness to who he was. They purchased land, with funds provided by the state legislature, and contacted Roger Schluntz, dean, UNM School of Architecture and Planning, to develop plans for what the museum could be.

Who was Elfego Baca?

The Elfego Baca story is legendary New Mexican. It was 1884 when Baca, a self-appointed deputy sheriff, set out to restore order to the small town of Frisco, near present-day Reserve.

Southwestern New Mexico was still untamed, ranching country. Geronimo would not be captured for another two years and Billy the Kid was killed just three years before. It was a time and place that cowboys did what they wanted, when they wanted. Baca arrested a cowboy for shooting up Frisco. The cowboy's friends wanted him released, something Baca wasn't willing to do. A standoff ensued when Baca took shelter in the tiny house, the jacal, belonging to Geronimo Armijo. Eighty cowhands engaged in an attack, during which the men fired more than 4,000 rounds into the jacal. Baca survived because the floor of the jacal was 18 inches below ground level.

Baca managed to kill four assailants and wound eight others. Thirty-six hours after it began, Baca walked out unharmed and into history, at 19 years of age.

Baca was admitted to the Bar in 1894 at the age of 29. Later he became a Deputy United States Marshall, an assistant district attorney, the mayor of Socorro, in 1919, Sheriff of Socorro County.

Elfego Baca died in 1945.

"Even fairly small projects, such as this, can be enormously complex. For example -- various community interests, funding sources, management and facility phasing options for future growth are all important aspects that must be understood and often debated at great length. Our efforts are intended to facilitate that discussion and understanding, and to help prepare the community organization for the next stages of programming and design of the envisioned facility.

"In this instance, and under the direction of Professor Tim Castillo, the school's digital technologies and visualization techniques are extremely powerful tools. Additionally, we are fortunate in that Professor Castillo grew up in nearby Silver City and is quite familiar with the region and its culture," said Schluntz.

With a grant from the board, Castillo and three students, Sajini Badrinarayan, Nitish Suvarna and Erik Mease, worked through the holidays.

"These students were selected because the they are computer proficient -- they had been in my digital modeling class. And we had to get the work done quickly because the board wanted to present the concepts during this year's legislative session," said Castillo.

"Reserve is a community in transition as mining and logging evaporate. They are looking for their identity as the doorstep to the Gila wilderness," said Castillo.

UNM Assistant Professor Tim Castillo, standing, explains preliminary plans to members of the Elfego Baca Project, Inc., board of directors Lupe Baca Rodriguez, Henry Martinez and Stan Sager.

The site selected is a 150 ft. by 80 ft. lot in downtown Reserve. In addition to the memorial and old west museum, the group wants a community center. Although no museum collection is in place, Henry Martinez, board president, and others are identifying possible museum items.

"We do have access to a 600-year-old statue of Santa Ana that was in the jacal and survived the gunfire. The statue was made in Spain and brought to New Mexico by the army. It is still in the family of those who brought it. I would like to research its roots," said Martinez. He said the bust is approximately two and a half feet high and rests on a wooden stand.

One aspect of the design plans includes incorporating a specific view. "We have compared the view at the site with photos of the jacal and we think it may be on the original site. The design includes an elevated platform to access the view," said Castillo.

Castillo and the students used computer animation, as well as traditional architectural renderings, to explore the three distinctive plans for the proposed memorial and museum. The group will take the ideas back and present them to the board.

"This school's outreach, research and educational missions can be greatly advanced by undertaking cooperative partnerships with communities and non-profit organizations. The museum/community center in Reserve is one of those endeavors, where we have assembled a project team of advanced design students led by an experienced faculty member. Our goal, basically, is to enable the community to better understand its future options and alternatives relative to this facility," said Schluntz.