CORRALES – David C’de Baca has a new mission.

With 33 years in the military under his belt, this Vietnam-era patriot’s goal is a commendable, though costly, one: Col. C’de Baca is working on what will be a three-part series of historical documentaries, to be aired on PBS stations, with an accompanying book.

Sort of like something famed filmmaker Ken Burns would do.

Not wishing to denounce or demean previous historians and authors, C’de Baca – the executive producer for this and the man credited for the creation of the memorial that honors nearly 6,000 Sandoval County veterans permanently displayed in the atrium of the Sandoval County administrative building — said so much of history’s accounts have featured tales of bravado of white “heroes” related in print by white authors.

Or, as C’de Baca wrote in a funding request, “Unfortunately, scholars rely on ‘official’ military accounts without validating the information contained therein. Without investing time and energy in efforts that authenticate such information, they unwittingly perpetuate the deep-seated bias and racism of yesteryear.”

C’de Baca and his partner in the project, Avelino Calabaza of Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo) Pueblo in Sandoval County, are hoping to find a pool of about 250 indigenous, Hispanic, Chicano and Black war heroes who performed heroic acts in times of conflict, which C’de Baca called an “unserved niche.”

The search for these people – especially veterans who earned medals of valor — will range throughout the Southwest, C’de Baca said: “from California to west Texas, from El Paso to southern Utah and Colorado.”

C’de Baca, a West Mesa High School graduate of 1973 who soon enlisted in the Army National Guard in what led to 33 years of military service, and those working with him will be canvassing that vast territory, visiting pueblos and reservations, small villages and towns, seeking those whose – or whose relatives’ – stories need to be told.

“Forgotten stories from forgotten places,” is how he puts it. “Our target audience is the schools, to show local content.”

C’de Baca knows of a Sandia Pueblo man who fought in World War II and witnessed the iconic raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima, as an example of someone whose tale needs telling.  And he’s knowledgeable about another untold story, about indigenous tribes playing a role in the defeat and retreat of Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Glorieta Pass in 1862, not far from Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Ultimately, this population would be reduced to 30, and telling the stories of 10 individuals in each hour-long episode.

C’de Baca is hoping for interest and/or funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“It’s a great project and time is a-ticking,” said rookie state Rep. Kathleen Cates of Rio Rancho, a proponent for C’de Baca’s ambitious project.

“We need to capture these stories as soon as possible,” she said. “We believe he has his ducks in a row to get federal funding, but he has to show some state support to make him eligible for the federal money.”

Dan Cillis of Rio Rancho, who authored a recent book about New Mexico doughboys who served in World War I, said C’de Baca’s project “is indeed a worthy and ambitious work of respect. It will bestow well-deserved honor and further recognition on those New Mexicans who fought for the USA and those who gave the ‘last full measure of devotion.’”

The project will be done in two phases: Phase 1 is the development phase, with an estimated cost of $75,000; Phase 2 is the production phase, which C’de Baca estimated to run $700,000 and start in early 2025.

Cates and fellow House newcomer Alan Martinez of Rio Rancho were co-sponsors of House Bill 307, which sought an appropriation of $100,000 from the general fund  “to the local government division of the department of finance administration for expenditure in fiscal year 2024 for the town of Bernalillo museum to develop phase one of the “Veteran Heroes of the American Southwest – Forgotten Stories from Forgotten Places’ documentary project.”

C’de Baca said the bill died due to a technicality.

“We’re trying for state matching funds,” he said, understanding. “It’s a huge undertaking,” but he’s happy to have received support of Arizona’s 22 tribes, plus many in Texas and New Mexico.
One of the drawbacks C’de Baca faces, says Cates, is “because it is not an equipment or bricks-and-mortar project, it will not qualify as a capital outlay project.

“The New Mexico (Veterans Administration) has been generous enough to step up and act as the fiscal agent, and the film is a physical deliverable (project) that can be used in the public school system,” Cates said, “but I could not get it qualified as a capital outlay project.”

“We have zero (funds) right now,” C’de Baca said, but the groundwork is under way as he hopes Phase 1 officially starts July 1.

Cates remains optimistic.

“We only need $100,000 to show state support, so we are focused on getting into the budget for next year – unless this story finds a generous donor.”

For potential donors for the project, or to reach C’de Baca for more information, email him at [email protected].

“It’s a labor of love,” C’de Baca said, hopeful the documentary will be completed in 2026.