The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Fallout from a nuclear past: New book explores human toll of ‘nuclear colonization’ in New Mexico.

From Los Alamos to the Trinity Test site, the human toll of “nuclear colonization” looms large

Las Cruces Sun News, Alicia Inez Guzmán, Searchlight New Mexico, 20 Nov 22,

Of the three waves of colonization New Mexico has undergone — Spanish, American and nuclear — the latter is the least explored. And for author Myrriah Gómez, there were personal reasons to reveal the truth about how “nuclear colonization” has altered the state’s past and continues to shape its future.

Gómez, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, is the author of  “Nuclear Nuevo México,” a book that explores the history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the fundamental tension of living in its shadow. Its publication this month by the University of Arizona Press couldn’t be timelier: Los Alamos is currently preparing to build plutonium “pits” that act as triggers in nuclear weapons, putting the lab front and center in an ongoing national debate about nuclear impacts.

“If Spanish colonialism brought Spanish colonizers and U.S. colonialism brought American colonizers,” as Gómez writes in her book, “then nuclear colonialism brought nuclear colonizers, scientists, military personnel, atomic bomb testing, and nuclear waste among them.”

For Gómez, the story is deeply felt. She grew up in El Rancho, just 20 miles from Los Alamos. And like so many in the Pojoaque Valley and its nearby villages, she was surrounded by relatives and others who worked at “the labs.” The profound, but not uncommon, loss of family members to radiation exposure shaped her writing. 

The book describes in great detail how the Manhattan Project’s site was chosen; how the deaths of Nuevo Mexicanos in the 1950s were designated as “classified” and kept secret; and how atomic testing affected the health of people living in the Tularosa Basin, downwind of the world’s first nuclear detonation. She also touches on the plutonium pit production that is gearing up today.

I recently sat down with her to talk about her book, which started as a PhD dissertation and grew from there. We also shared some of our common experiences. As a Truchas native, I myself lost a relative to illness that was linked to his work at Los Alamos.

……………………………………………………………………………….So it’s not just the health, the illness, the disease and the deaths. It’s also the rifts created in the community. The big reduction in the labor forces that happened in the 1990s, the majority of whom were from the valley — that period of time was the biggest reflection of how dependent we are on the labs and why it’s problematic. 

It’s not just the illness. It’s not just kicking people off their land. It’s not just the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or the ‘Let us give you this lump sum of money for how you’ve been sick.’ This is all treating the symptoms instead of getting to the root of the illness. 

Which is to say that it’s systemic, which is why it’s colonialism.


November 20, 2022 - Posted by | environment, history, USA

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: