At 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated over what is now known as the Trinity Site, creating a shock wave that radiated 160 miles outward. The site, today located at White Sands National Park in Socorro County, was selected due to its remote location and weather conditions. While the bright light emanating from the explosion could be seen all the way to Albuquerque, 130 miles away, the test remained highly classified, and therefore a secret to the public—and to many of the 130,000 scientists and engineers who worked on it. To avoid instigating panic, the government chose not to evacuate nearby towns. The detonation site remained closed off until 1953 due to its high radioactivity. In 1975, it was designated a National Historic Landmark; today, the site allows visitors access twice a year.
Groups like the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) are working towards the passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments, which would bring healthcare coverage and compensation to the New Mexicans whose health has suffered from the effects of the explosion. According to TBDC’s research, the explosion caused rare forms of cancer for many of the 30,000 people living in the area.1Learn more here.
In this interview, Tina Cordova, the group’s cofounder, discusses the effect that this explosion had on the species, land, and inhabitants of the area and describes the work that TBDC has been doing over the last two decades to raise awareness and provide support for those affected. —Ane González Lara, Diverse Peoples, Arid Landscapes, and the Built Environment report editor