Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Manuel Robert Chavez

Manuel Robert Chavez


Honored March, 1987

Manuel Robert 'Bob' Chavez

Eighteen hundred members of the New Mexico National Guard set out on the Bataan Death March, in April 1942, after US entry into the Second World War. Nine hundred came back alive. Bob Chavez, born and raised in Cochiti pueblo, was one of the survivors.

During his four years as a prisoner of war in the Philippines and Japan, he made a promise to the Great Spirit. He vowed that if he made it back to New Mexico, he would devote himself to his school, St. Catherine's Indian School, where he was a member of the first graduating class in 1935.

Back in New Mexico at war's end, Bob went to work as an airplane mechanic for Southwest Airlines and for the State Highway Department, in order to support his family, wife Mary, a childhood friend from Cochiti, and their children. And, drawing on his talents as an athlete and an artist, he began to make good on his wartime promise.