Baca given key to Belen

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December 16 is now a special day in the city of Belen — it is a day that honors a native son, who has been called an institution.

Sitting proudly before the mayor and city council in his Belen High School letterman’s jacket, Trini Baca was celebrated, feted and gifted on Monday, Dec. 16, as the council voted happily and unanimously to name it “Trini Baca Day.”

Trini “Pito Pito” Baca Honored by the city of Belen

Whether you know him as Trini, Jose, Trinidad or “Pito Pito,” he is known to all in Belen.

Every day, Trini makes his rounds amongst the businesses in the city, doing odd jobs, sweeping the sidewalks and generally spreading happiness with his easy smile.

Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said after 25 years of owning and operating Rutilio’s Restaurant, if Trini isn’t around, something’s not right.

“He comes to our place daily. There are times when Trini says, ‘No money,’ and there’s his plate. When he has money, he pays, ‘Trini pagar,’” Jaramillo said. “I know how this community treats Trini. And I could say things about him all night long, and I still don’t know if we can fit the whole story of Trini.”

Born Jose Trinidad Baca on June 8, 1941, in Las Nutrias, Trini suffered a brain injury when he was 3 years old.

Councilor Wayne Gallegos said because of the times, possibly due to lack of resources and poverty, the consequences of the injury were dire for Trini. The family moved to Belen in 1949 and his mother dedicated herself to caring for Trini, which meant trying to enroll him in school.

“She was told he didn’t belong in school because he was mentally challenged,” Gallegos said.

At 16, his parents placed him in the Los Lunas Hospital and Training School, where he would receive an education and training, they were told.

After two years at the training school, Trini was attacked by another student with a shovel. His parents removed him from the institution and brought him home, Gallegos said.

After his mother and father died, in 1973 and 1998 respectively, Trini’s care fell to his brother, Michael

“It was difficult as Trini had his ways,” Gallegos said. “But despite the challenges, they are buddies. His family says Trini’s greatest joy is being part of the community.”

Jose Campos, the director of the Valencia County Older Americans program, said Trini comes to the Belen Senior Center every day.

“Without him, I don’t think it would be as lively,” Campos said.

Trini’s brothers, Michael and Manuel Baca, both thanked the mayor and councilors for honoring their brother and giving him a special day.

“Everyone knows ‘Pito Pito,’” said Michael

“I would like to thank the people of the city of Belen for the charity they have given Trini in the years he has been here,” said Manuel. “He has walked the streets for 50 years — cleaning.”

Mayor Jaramillo presented Trini with a gold key to the city, and the councilors and staff gifted him with several items, including a free lunch at Long John Silvers, a pair of gloves to continue his work, a dust pan and brush for the “detail work,” a brand new broom, a hard hat and bright green safety vest, a portable radio and a fire department shirt.

Trini said he was, “Happy for (the) city, happy for (the) men, happy for (the) Lord.”

The ceremony ended with a standing ovation from everyone in the council chambers.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.