Full Moon, April 2023
Updated: Apr 6
Every Friday at noon a small group of people stand on the four corners of Alameda and Guadalupe Streets near downtown. They stand on either side of banners attached to the sidewalk guardrails which read “Nuclear Weapons are Illegal.” One man holds a flag aloft with a white dove against a black background. In its beak it holds the olive branch of peace. For years many of them have been keeping this vigil and protest against nuclear weapons in varying places in Santa Fe. Many of them are war veterans. Sometimes my dog, Maddie, and I have joined them for the hour vigil. The Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) has leased an office building and conference space at this intersection directly across from the Sanctuario de Guadalupe, the oldest church honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States, built in 1777. A 12-foot statue of the Lady stands and looks in the direction of the new offices. In a ceremony at the Sanctuario earlier this year the Archbishop of Santa Fe, John Wester, called for nuclear disarmament. With dozens of people witnessing, he dedicated a plaque in front of the rose bushes by the statue. It quotes Pope Francis, “The possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.” In the next few months 75 LANL employees will be working in the leased offices across the street while 500 more will be using another location in Santa Fe. For the first time, Santa Fe, the city of St. Francis of Assisi, peacemaker and patron saint of the environment, will be an extended home to nuclear weapons production. This expansion is funded by LANL’s increased federal budget to increase the production of plutonium bomb triggers, or pits, for new nuclear weapons. While New Mexico is often called the Land of Enchantment with Santa Fe as its capitol and known for its art and beauty, only a 45-minute drive north through pueblo lands and an astonishing landscape of multi-colored cliffs and mesas stands LANL, the birthplace of the US nuclear weapons program. It started with the Manhattan Project when in 1942 US officials told Pueblo de San Ildefonso tribal leaders that use of the Pajarito Plateau to win World War II would be short-term. It has not been. Those lands, and those of the Hispanic homesteaders who were forcibly evicted, have never been returned as promised. Contaminated air, water and soil from LANL continue to impact communities and the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico. Most recently there is a proposal to ship the radioactive waste from nuclear production throughout the country through Santa Fe to a permanent storage site near Carlsbad, New Mexico. New Mexico is not only the Land of Enchantment - it is a Sacrifice State. Many people come as tourists to visit Santa Fe. For the first time they may learn from the small group of people on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe of the huge nuclear weapons industry in the state. They may be surprised to learn of its impacts, of the uranium mined in the northwest region of the state essential in the making of the bombs and of the first detonation of an atomic bomb further south at the Trinity Site. They may not know of the resulting high cancer rates and deaths of the indigenous people, small farmers and ranchers who live in those areas. Still, they may see nuclear weapons as necessary, as a safeguard, or they may simply not want to know. Or they may be moved to make a stand themselves in the name of peace and justice. They may be inspired, even for a moment, by the dedicated group of peacemakers who stand as David to Goliath every Friday at noon.