Baca family of New Mexico
The progenitors of the Baca family of New Mexico were Cristóbal Baca (Vaca) and his wife Ana Ortiz. Cristóbal was a military captain who arrived in 1600 with his family in order to help reinforce the Spanish colonial Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico province in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (colonial México). At the time, they had three grown daughters and a small son. The Bacas had another son while living in Nuevo Mexico. the family then moved to grants new mexico
Cristóbal, the son of Juan de Vaca, was born in colonial Mexico City around 1567. His wife, also from that city, was the daughter of Francisco Pacheco. Their children born in Mexico City were Juana de Zamora, Isabel de Bohórquez, María de Villanueva, and Antonio Baca. Of the daughters, Juana married Simón Pérez de Bustillo, Isabel was the wife of Pedro Durán y Chaves, and María married Simón de Abendaño.
Antonio Baca was born c. 1600. He was married to Yumar Pérez de Bustillo who was born c.1591. They had three daughters: Gertudris, who married Antonio Jorge; Ana, who married Francisco López de Aragón, and Antonia, who was the wife of Antonio de Albizu. It does not appear that Antonio had any sons to carry on the Baca name. Antonio was executed on 21 July 1643 for treason against the colonial government.
Alonzo Baca, born in Nuevo Mexico, was the youngest sibling. Although he took part in the same conspiracy that resulted in his brother Antonio's death, Alonzo survived the affair. He may have had at least one son, another Cristóbal Baca. It appears that the Baca surname may have continued through Alonzo’s progeny, including the second Cristóbal Baca.
The Pueblo Revolt occurred in 1680. Subsequently, many Spanish families fled Nuevo Mexico as refugees. When the Spaniards re-conquered the territory in 1693, a Manuel Baca and his family were among those who returned to Santa Fe. Manuel was born c. 1653 and was the son of the second Cristóbal Baca. Manuel apparently had at least eight children with his wife María de Salazar. After arriving in New Mexico, they soon began living on land in Bernalillo previously owned by Manuel‘s father.
Cabeza de Baca family
The Cabeza de Baca family is an offshoot of the Baca family. The progenitor of this family is Luis María Cabeza de Baca. He was born as Luis Maria Baca on 26 October 1754, the oldest son of Juan Antonio Baca and Maria Romero. He had over 20 children by three different wives. The Cabeza de Baca family are often known by the abbreviated surnames of either C. de Baca or de Baca.
Possible origin of the surname
The surname "Baca" is often assumed to be a variation of the name "Cabeza de Vaca." Cabeza de Vaca means "head of a cow" in Spanish. There are two possible origins of this name:
- A Spanish shepherd, Martin Alhaja, was given the name by the Castilian King Alfonso VIII. In 1212 Alhaja placed a cow skull on the road that led over a pass in the mountains. Using this shepherds path to infiltrate soldiers behind the Moorish position led to the victory of the Spanish king over the Moors at the battle of Navas de Tolosa in Andalusia. He was awarded a coat-of-arms that included cow skulls in its design.
- A Spanish knight named Fernan Ruiz distinguished himself in a victory over the Moors at Córdoba in 1235. For his services, the king added Cabeza de Vaca to Ruiz's name. This name was taken from the area where the knight was born. Research into Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's genealogy indicates that a number of his ancestors and other relatives had the name Fernan Ruiz.
Some researchers have discovered an erroneous link between Crístobal Baca’s wife Ana Ortíz and Christopher Columbus, among others. As noted previously, Ana Ortíz was the daughter of one Francisco Pacheco. At least three separate articles published in genealogical journals have identified this man as Francisco Pacheco de Cordóva. Not only have researchers found that Pacheco de Córdova had an impressive lineage, but so did his wife Juana de la Cueva y Toledo Colón.
Ana Ortíz has also been shown to be related to the famed explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and Francisco Enriques, the Duke of Alburquerque. The problem with this finding is that Francisco Pacheco de Córdova, and presumably his wife, would have been too young to be the parents of Ana Ortíz. Pacheco was born in 1573, while Ana Ortíz’s daughter Isabel de Bohórquez was born c. 1586. Thus Pacheco would have been only 13 years older than the woman who would supposedly have been his granddaughter.
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca
One assumption is that famed Spanish explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was an ancestor of Juan de Vaca and, consequently, Cristóbal Baca. In 1988, Dr. Eric Beerman reviewed the research that had been done on Cabeza de Vaca, and did not discover any information that this explorer had any direct descendants. However, he did not completely rule out that possibility. Another researcher, George C' de Baca, did extensive research but was unable to find a connection between the New Mexico Baca family and the Cabeza de Vaca family in Spain. However, it is still generally assumed that the Baca surname originated from this noble family.
Notable family members
- John Philip Baca, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
- Edward D. Baca, first Hispanic head of the National Guard Bureau, Lieutenant General U.S. Army (ret.)
- Elfego Baca, frontier personality
- Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert, writer and educator.
- Jimmy Santiago Baca, Poet
- Jim Baca, former Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor
- Joe Baca, U.S. Representative from California - born in Belen, New Mexico
- Judy Baca, contemporary artist
- Polly Baca-Barragan, First Mexican-American to serve in the Colorado Legislature 
Places named after the Baca family
- Baca County, Colorado
- Baca Ranch in Colorado
- Baca Ranch in New Mexico
- Baca National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado
- Bacaville, New Mexico
- De Baca County, New Mexico
- Trinidad, Colorado - named after Trinidad Baca
- Baca House, Trinidad, Colorado
- Baca Mansion, Las Vegas, New Mexico
- Vacaville, California
Other locations of interest
- Chávez, Fray Angélico, Origins of New Mexico Families: A Genealogy of the Spanish Colonial Period, rev. ed. (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico, 1992) p. 9
- Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families’, p. 9-10.
- Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families,, p. 10.
- Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families, p. 10.
- Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families, p. 141.
- Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families, p. 152.
- Beerman, Dr. Eric, “The Ancestors of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca” in The Louisiana Genealogical Register, June 1988: Vol. XXXV, No. 2, 101-110.
- Beerman, “The Ancestors of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza be Vaca”; Jaskolski, Ernie, “The Francisco Vasquez Coronado Connection to New Mexico Descendants” in The New Mexico Genealogist, September 1995: Vol. XXXIV, No. 3; and, Sanchez, Ernest J., “Beyond Origins of New Mexico Families: The Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus), Francisco Vásquez Coronado, and Francisco Enriques (Duque de Alburquerque) Connection to Doña Ana María Ortiz” in Herencia, January 1999: Vol. 7, issue 1
- Sanchez, “Beyond Origins: Crístobal Colón, et al.”
- Esquibel, Jose Antonio, “The Baca-Ortiz Family and Don Francisco Pacheco de Córdoba y Bocanegra: Otra Vez” in Beyond Origins of New Mexico Families(dead link).
- Beerman, “The Ancestors of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza be Vaca”, p.112.
- C' de Baca, George, "More on the Cabeza de Vaca Debate," in Herencia, October 1999: Volume 7, issue 4, pp. 51-52.
- John Baca
- McShane, Becky Jo. Wishart, David J., ed. "De Baca, Fabiola Cabeza (1898-1933)". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- Fray Angélico Chávez, Origins of New Mexico Families: A Genealogy of the Spanish Colonial Period, revised edition. (Santa Fe Museum of New Mexico, 1992), (ISBN 978-0-89013-239-5).
- David H. Snow, New Mexico's first colonists: The 1597-1600 enlistments for New Mexico under Juan de Oñate, Adelante & Gobernador, ISBN 0-9652463-0-2, ISBN 978-0-9652463-0-9.