Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XV

February 2010

Number II

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Los Alamos National Laboratory: "The Unleashed Power of the Atom" By Kay Matthews  

Center for Disease and Prevention Control Meets With New MexicoCommunity on Los Alamos National Laboratory Contaminant Releases By Basia Miller, Joni Arends, and Kay Matthews

A Brief History of American Imperialism, Part 5: Racism and the New Mexico Territory By Mark Schiller


Los Alamos Revisited By Peter Malmgren

Los Alamos National Laboratory: "The Unleashed Power of the Atom"

By Kay Matthews

In this second edition of 2010 we'd like to devote several articles to another issue that has figured prominently in the pages of La Jicarita News, particularly in the last decade: the role Los Alamos National Laboratory plays in our nuclear nation and in our northern New Mexico society. On page 3 there is an article that Joni Arends, director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, CCNS board member Basia Miller, and I put together about the recent meeting between the Centers for Disease Control and northern New Mexico community members regarding the CDC's report on the release of LANL contaminants and what needs to happen next. Beginning on page 5 is a sampling from Chimayó resident Peter Malmgren's longtime project interviewing workers from LANL, half of whom became ill. (If anyone is interested in getting in touch with Peter about his project, his e-mail address is: lcpm@valornet.com.)

In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, scientist Lawrence M. Krauss discussed what is called the "Doomsday Clock," which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists established in 1947 to gauge how close the world is to nuclear catastrophe. While Krauss announced that he had moved it back one minute from its previous setting of five minutes to Doomsday, he noted several "wrongheaded notions that keep the clock ticking." Despite the fact that the Cold War is over, Russia and the U.S. possess more than 10,000 nuclear warheads, and right now LANL is the only facility in this country that continues to make the triggers, or plutonium pits, for these warheads. In his article, Krauss quotes Albert Einstein: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

Less than a week after Krauss's article came out, the Obama administration published its budget requests for nuclear weapons research at all the facilities around the country. The overall budget seeks $7 billion while the LANL request is for $2.21 billion, up from $1.82 billion (including $225 million for design work for the Chemistry and Metatlurgy Research Replacement building). In National Nuclear Secrutiy Administration director Thomas D'Agostino's double speak, this budget will implement the president's nuclear vision as the U.S. moves "from a Cold War nuclear weapons complex . . . into a 21st-century nuclear security enterprise." (For more double speak, see the last paragraph of this article.)

The Department of Energy continues to work on its Complex Transformation ("Bomplex") program that would consolidate the production of plutonium pits at LANL. The CDC report released last year confirmed that plutonium released at LANL in the years from 1948 to 1956 could have resulted in off-site doses that exceeded those that were calculated for the combined operations at three other DOE production sites. If LANL is going to continue as a production site, not just a research and development facility, are we going to see continued releases of radioactive nuclides into our air, water, and workers?

The New Mexico Environment Department is charged with environmental oversight of LANL, and while several recent victories are welcome, current monitoring and clean-up at the Lab represents only a fraction of the work that needs to be done. While a Consent Order between NMED and LANL that was signed in 2002 commits the Lab to cleaning up approximately 2,000 contaminated sites by 2015, NMED recently found that PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), selenium, aluminum, other metals, and gross alpha radiation have exceeded standards measured in storm waters on the Pajarito Plateau. Tainted aquifers in the canyons that drain into the Rio Grande have the potential to poison the drinking water of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. A carcinogen has already been detected in the drinking water of the Los Alamos and White Rock communities. Fortunately, LANL recently withdrew its opposition to NMED's plan to set new standards for monitoring radiological contaminants in the Rio Grande as a "public water supply." These standards are currently being considered as part of the Triennial Review of New Mexico's water quality standards.

LANL and the NMED, with watchdog non-governmental organizations at the table, are currently negotiating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act) permit for LANL. A settlement of the Communities for Clean Water's lawsuit and appeal of LANL's storm water National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is also being negotiated. This involves 59 dump sites, where contaminated storm water is allowed to run off into the soils, surface water, and shallow groundwater of LANL's Los Alamos and Pueblo canyon watersheds, eventually traveling down-gradient to the Rio Grande,

In the September 2006 issue of La Jicarita News I wrote an article about the new management at LANL by a consortium of private corporatations (and the University of California) led by Bechtel. The article profiled Bechtel, revealing the revolving door between the corporation and the federal government as decisions were made over the development of the nuclear industry. In a more recent Z Magazine article, Darwin BondGraham takes a closer look at the revolving door, not only between Bechtel and the government but at the conservative think tanks (Stanford's Hoover Institute and Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C.) that support "policy elites" like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perrry, and Sam Nunn. These former government powerhouses, labeled the "four horsemen" after their disingenuous 2007 op-ed calling for a "world free of nuclear weapons," along with Sidney Drell and the current Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu, formerly the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "reflect a political economy that is not only fundamentally at odds with nuclear abolition, but are anathema to peace and justice" (quote by Ray Acheson in the Z Magazine article).

La Jicarita News will continue to watch and report on all of these LANL issues that so fundamentally impact our lives in northern New Mexico.

Center for Disease and Prevention Control Meets With New Mexico Community on Los Alamos National Laboratory Contaminant Releases

By Basia Miller, Joni Arends, and Kay Matthews

On January 28 at the Ohkay Owingeh Conference Center a local team of women working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) met with approximately 200 community members to review the Draft Final Report of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) Project, concluding eleven years of work. The project, the last one to be completed at all of the nation's nuclear weapons' sites, was to systematically identify and collect the information held by the government laboratories concerning historical releases of contaminants.

Kathy Sanchez, of Tewa Women United and a member of Las Mujeres Hablan, a coalition of northern New Mexico women who have been working to protect their communities from the nuclear weapons industry, spoke at the beginning of the meeting about generational trauma. Bags of rocks placed successively inside other bags illustrated how the presence of Los Alamos National Laboratory has created a burden for the community and has grown heavier with time.

Dr. Charles Miller of the CDC explained the history of the LAHDRA project, begun in 1999 but frequently delayed for a number of reasons: security clearance issues and other Lab procedures; the Lab's shutdown during a security incident; and the Cerro Grande fire. The project had to be repeatedly refunded when it exceeded its time frame. The team reviewed some 40,000 boxes of documents, portions of which are now available to the public.

Tom Widner from ChemRisk, the CDC contractor, summarized the team's findings about each of the principal contaminants &endash; plutonium, tritium, uranium, and beryllium. He repeatedly observed that the information compiled warrants further research. This is the main concern of the community people who attended the meeting. According to Joni Arends, director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, "Our goal is to ensure that the LAHDRA Project continues and we need community input to determine what the best mechanism is for this to happen." She, along with the other members of Las Mujeres Hablan, would like to see a community-based expert panel be included in the next step of the process, reconstructing the dose of contaminants that local and regional New Mexicans have been exposed to throughout the history of LANL's operations. These local citizens could provide critical expertise to advise the CDC, its contractors, the Department of Energy, LANL, the congressional delegation, other elected officials, and communities about how to proceed. Of particular concern is the effect of LANL contaminants on the sole source aquifer (the only source of drinking water for this area) that stretches between the Sangre de Cristos and Jemez Mountains from Tres Piedras to Glorieta. Measures can be taken to protect this aquifer by looking into past disposal practices.

In dose reconstructions that were done for above ground test sites, "the most important conceptual requirement for conducting valid assessments is recognizing important exposure pathways" (according to the Marshall Islands study), information that can best be provided by the local population, whose quality of life is under examination. One of the most egregious examples of the lack of community input thus far in the process is that of the Trinity Test Site near Socorro, where fallout from the first atom bomb explosion in 1945 has never been fully studied. Arends introduced Tina Córdova from the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, who she said "exemplifies a community expert." This is an excerpt of the statement Cordova prepared for the CDC:

"To maintain secrecy the government had no plans to evacuate the people living in proximity to the test site. The government had only unsophisticated means for measuring and evaluating the fallout. The placement of their survey teams was, I believe, strategic in nature in that none of the teams were placed near the communities of any population. The idea that the plume somehow only extended in a northeasterly direction over unpopulated areas of New Mexico, missing all the surrounding communities, is absurd and beyond comprehension.

"I was born 50 years ago in one of those communities. Tularosa, as the crow flies, is about 40 miles from ground zero. My family and all the other members of my village were unknowing, unwilling, uncompensated participants in the world's largest scientific experiment with devastating consequences. I developed thyroid cancer 12 years ago and my father has had both oral cancer and prostate cancer. Most of the women in my family have thyroid disease and so do most of the women from my community. The numbers of cancers, rare tumors, and autoimmune diseases in Tularosa is unprecedented. Many people there are working class and either underinsured or uninsured. When they get sick many of them do not have the means to receive the necessary care. There is little to no opportunity for screening, so often times the cancers are advanced when diagnosed. Once diagnosed, many are sent home to die."

It is imperative that the CDC take the next step in this process by requesting an expert panel of local citizens to help determine the extent and impact of these contaminants.

A Brief History of American Imperialism, Part 5: Racism and theNew Mexico Territory

By Mark Schiller

Two brief excerpts from the Congressional record demonstrate the government's attitude regarding the issue of annexing the northern portions of Mexico. During the debate in the Senate regarding the annexation of New Mexico, Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina (former Vice President and Secretary of State) stated: "Ours is the government of the white man. The great misfortune of what was formerly Spanish America, is to be traced to the fatal error of placing the colored race on an equality with the white. . . . Are we to associate with ourselves as equals, companions, and fellow citizens, the Indians and mixed races of Mexico? I would consider such association as degrading to ourselves and fatal to our institutions." Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan, commenting on an earlier but similar statement by Calhoun, stated: "Senator Calhoun . . . has submitted many sound observations respecting the diversity of races and institutions, which exist between us and Mexico, and he deprecates . . . the union of the Mexican people and ours. I fully agree, sir; in all that. It would be a deplorable amalgamation. No such evil will happen to us in our day. We do not want the people of Mexico, either as citizens or subjects. All we want is a portion of territory . . . with a population, which would recede . . . ."

Speaking about the Hispano population, Charles Bent, the first territorial governor of New Mexico, stated: "There is no stability in these people, they have no opinion of thare [sic] own, they are entirely governed by the powers that be, they are without exception the most servile people that can be imagined. They are Completely at the will of those in Power . . . let those be so Ignorant as may be they dair [sic] not express an opinion to that of thar [sic] rules, they are [not] fit to be free people, they should be ruled by others than themselves."

Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner, the territorial military commander of New Mexico had this to say: "The New Mexicans are thoroughly debased and totally incapable of self government, and there is no latent quality about them that can ever make them respectable. They have more Indian blood than Spanish, and in some respects are below the Pueblo Indians, for they are not as honest or as industrious."

George W. Julian, the New Mexico Surveyor General between 1885-1889, who was personally responsible for the defeat of many legitimate Spanish and Mexican land claims referred to the "stagnation of the natives" and the "prevailing tendency here [New Mexico] to degenerate into barbarism."

Racism directed towards Mexicans in the popular press was even more blatant. Comments included: "an imbecile, pusillanimous race of men, . . . unfit to control the destinies of that beautiful country"; "There are no people on the continent of America, whether civilized or uncivilized, . . . more miserable in condition or despicable in morals than the mongrel race inhabiting New Mexico"; "a sickening mixture, consisting of such a conglomeration of Negroes and Rancheroes, Mestizoes and Indians"; "[Mexicans] are reptiles in the path of progressive democracy &endash; who with his bigboots on is bound to travel from Portland to Patagonia &endash; and they must either crawl or be crushed." Even the poet Walt Whitman, who was the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle during the Mexican-American War and later known as a champion of the common man opined, "What has miserable, inefficient Mexico &endash; with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom . . . what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race? Be it ours, to achieve that mission!"

In point of fact, the United States could have taken all of Mexico following the Mexican-American War if it had been so inclined, but the main impediment was clearly the government's reluctance to grant citizenship to people it considered inferior racially. Commenting on the role racism played in the annexation of northern Mexico by the United States, historian Reginald Horsmen suggests, "Even those who in 1847 and 1848 argued that all of Mexico should be annexed gave practically no support to the idea of allowing Mexicans to enter the union as equal citizens. Some thought that education might ultimately make this possible, but most envisioned a military occupation of the country, an enthusiastic encouragement of commerce and trade with the United States, a rapid influx of American Anglo-Saxons attracted by an enlightened new order and increasing prosperity, a sharp reduction in the Mexican population, and the eventual absorption of a country that had been 'Saxonized.' The essential ingredients in this general scheme were that Mexico in the immediate future would be administered by the army as a colonial possession, and that the amalgamation of Mexico into the union would be made possible by reducing the Mexican population and gradually replacing Mexicans by Anglo-Saxons." This thesis is born out by the fact that New Mexico and Arizona were the last of the original forty-eight states to be granted statehood, in 1912, and only then after an influx of Anglo land speculators, resource extractors, and cattle ranchers had established firm control of New Mexico's and political machinery.

I'll also note here, in order to demonstrate how pervasive racism and paternalism directed towards Hispanos was during this era, that even those who spoke out against the inequities of the laws governing the adjudication of land grants, such as Senator Joseph Roswell Hawley of Connecticut, referred to Hispanos as "uneducated greasers."

In response to this rabid racism, some Mexican nationals chose to resettle in Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed them the right to maintain their Mexican citizenship by moving south of the newly established border, and some individuals and families chose to do just that. In point of fact, the Mexican government sent a delegation to the Territory of New Mexico in 1849 to inform Mexican residents that it was making land available in the northern state of Chihuahua for the resettlement of Mexican nationals. In a letter to the governor of Chihuahua the priest Ramon Ortiz, who led the delegation, described what occurred when he arrived at the settlement of San Miguel del Vado "I had barely arrived in the settlements of that county when all its inhabitants appealed to me with enthusiasm, asking me to enlist them and their families among the immigrants to the territory of Mexico. Although they knew that, according to the guarantees of the peace treaty, they would lose all their property, they were willing to lose everything rather than to live in a country whose government gave them fewer guarantees than our own and in which they were treated with more disdain than members of the African race." Ortiz estimated that "at least eighty thousand persons are ready to emigrate to the territory of the republic." His presence caused such a disturbance among the Mexican populace that New Mexico Territorial Governor John M. Washington ordered him to suspend his campaign.

These citations represent the prevalent attitudes of the law makers, law enforcers, intellectuals, and mainstream media of the period: ultra-nationalism fueled by a belief in the supremacy of the white race, rationalizing a wholesale colonialist land grab and the consequent dispossession of indigenous peoples by the courts and colonial administrators. The United States government never had any intention of "inviolably respecting" the property rights of Hispano land claimants after the Mexican-American War and racism was one of several specious rationales it used to justify its actions.










• Taos County Economic Development Corporation and de la Tierra a la Cosecha are sponsoring the 1st Rancher Forum "Connecting Meat Producers to the Food System" on Friday and Saturday, February 26-27, 2010. The forum will be held at the TCEDC Business Park at 1021 Salazar Road in Taos. Friday's program will run from 12 to 5 pm and Saturday's will be from 9 am to 5 pm. The event is free and open to the public. The agenda is as follows:

Friday, 12:00 pm: Registration and lunch featuring locally produced meat and food items from the Taos Food Center

1:00: Introductions

3:00: Tour facility

4:00: Networking

5:00: Adjourn

Saturday, 9:00 am: Registration

10:30: Taos Land Trust, Taos Valley Acequia Assoc.

11:30: USDA Risk Management &endash; Tools and Resources

12:00: Discussion

12:30: Lunch &endash; "Creating Community Thru Cooking," commercial kitchen

2:00: Tour facility

2:30: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

3:00: Composting workshop or meat marketing panel

4:00: Discussion

5:00: Adjourn

Please RSVP by calling 575-758-8731 or via e-mail at tcedc@tcedc.org

• The Trinity Nuclear Abolitionists, based in Albuquerque, are hosting a non-violent demonstration of peace at LANL on Sunday, February 28th from noon to 1 pm. The prayer action for peace will be the cumulating event for many participants in the annual weekend faith-based retreat that occurs at different nuclear weapons sites across the Southwestern U.S. Marcus Page, one of the organizers, said, "The entire world knows that LANL is an enormous threat to peace and the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility would be the biggest violator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." For more information, please call the Trinity Nuclear Abolitionists at (505) 242-0497 or visit http://plc.lovarchy.org.

Jakob and Casey cutting their wedding cake at Sugar Nymphs Bistro in Peñasco. Congratulations!

Los Alamos Revisited

By Peter Malmgren

The oral history project called "Los Alamos Revisited" was initiated by the Rio Arriba Environmental Health Association in the year 2000. Its purpose was to tell the story of the creation of Los Alamos National Laboratory from the vantage point of the people who helped build it. The historical record is filled with accounts from scientists and assorted pundits, but the voices of the technicians, the engineers, the trades people, and all the rest have remained silent. We recognized this as a significant gap in 20th century New Mexico history and set out to fill it.

It was a five year effort that took me to 25 villages and towns and yielded 150 substantial interviews that have been transcribed and placed in the State Archives in Santa Fe. A photo exhibit of archival images is an adjunct to the work. The photos are displayed with excerpts from the massive text of the project. The show has traveled to Española, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Silver City. Below are some excerpted interviews.

Mike Padilla of San Juan Pueblo, who served in the Armed Forces, describing his 1954 mission to Eniwetok, a staging area in the South Sea Islands, when the hydrogen bomb was detonated on Bikini Island.

The B-36, the mother plane, went up at 3:30 A.M. All aircraft that was not to fly was tied down. They marched us to the runway and got us in position. Orders were coming over the loudspeaker now. We were told to get into a prone position and to cover our faces. Of course we had our masks and goggles on. I never will forget when it actually happened. Everything just lit up. It was 178 miles away. I had my eyes closed tight but the light came through like it was an x-ray. I'll tell you everybody was so quiet, there wasn't a word spoken. Then the speaker came on and told us to prepare for the aftershock and the fact that the island might shake. Oh boy, when that hit, the island did start to shake.

Then they said, remove your masks and turn and face the blast. I got up and turned around. My goodness, it looked like it was right there beside us. It went up to 60, maybe 100,000 feet. Then they sent us back to prepare our aircraft. We sent a wave of three planes at a time up into the mushroom cloud to bring back radiation samples and we prepared to receive them.

They put me on a forklift with a crate on it and as soon as the plane landed I opened the canopy. I would help the pilot out. We were both in protective clothing. As soon as we got him out, the other two guys would lock all the explosive charges in the seats, the canopy jettison, and then we'd recover the samples on the wings and put them in special lead containers. Then the pilot and rest of us would peel off all our clothing and head for the showers. We would soap up and shower and then get checked by the monitors. I took twelve showers in the course of an hour and a half. We were also responsible for decontaminating the planes, which we did with high pressure hoses, first sea water, and later purified water. For bad areas that held the radiation, we used Gunk, a degreasing agent. We were limited to three or four minutes at the aircraft at any given time.

After a week, I got lucky and they said that I could go and see what we had accomplished with this hydrogen bomb. There was no Bikini, just a deep, blue hole in the ocean. We were probably up at 15,000 feet when we passed over. You could see the ships. They were placed many miles from Ground Zero. The ones that were within 35-50 miles had their hulls turned over. Beyond fifty miles, there were some still afloat, but what amazed me was how that island just disappeared. It just turned deep, deep, blue like it was just a gigantic hole in the ocean floor.

Jonathan "Colorado" Garcia who spent years burying hot material in Area G at LANL.

Jonathan Garcia: When I first started, it was back in 1976, July 8th to be exact. The first day that I hired on they took me to the warehouse and picked up the scraper. It was an old Army scraper and said "Seebees" on it. I followed my foreman down to the hot dump. They were digging a pit. That's what I started on the first day, digging pits. They started with the scrapers, three in all, plus a bulldozer with another scraper pulling it. They called it a cat and can. They were old but we used them. We were digging a pit that was 100 feet wide, 600 feet long, and 55 feet deep. The pit had one real steep entrance, as steep as we could make it, and the other side was more gradual because that was where the trucks would come in and dump their loads in the bottom.

Peter Malmgren: If you are running a piece of equipment that is that heavy and running over the top of buried barrels, it seems to me that you are going to squash a bunch of hazardous material.

JG: The dozer was 60 tons and the sludge drums would just bust. I hit a cylinder one time, I don't know what it was. The cylinder blew up when I ran over it with the dozer. It was shooting a blaze of fire up into the air, some kind of gas or something. I left the dozer right there where it was and ran. I didn't know what was going on.

PM: You didn't flip but close to it.

JG: No, but it took me up pretty high. I just dropped the blade, jumped off, and took off running. I ran all the way to the top of the pit and got in the truck. At that time I had what they called a two man Austin, which was a crane that was set on a truck. That's what I used for transportation down to the hot dump. Thank God that the guy who took care of the area was there, C.O. Martinez. He opened the gate for me and I left. I told him what had happened. Later on my foreman and I went down there. They sent down a monitor because we didn't have one of our own. They checked the dozer and it had picked up quite a lot of radiation. They took me to TA-29 where I showered and showered and was checked several times. Then they let me go. That bulldozer had to be washed with solvents but they couldn't get all the radiation that was impregnated into the metal.

PM: Did you continue to use that piece of equipment?

JG: Yes, I ran it for about three or four more years loading boxes.

PM: If they were taking such elaborate precautions for the people who brought you the stuff, why were they so stupid to think that you didn't require the same level of protection?

JG: I don't know. They used to send me for chest counts every six months. I went into a vault next to the Los Alamos hospital that they called the "rat lab." You go down into a basement and they put you in a vault and put all these machines on you. You had to shower before and afterwards. They were determining what I had taken into my body. When I requested the records of these chest exams, they claimed that they never existed. They had no records on me.

PM: Do you have any idea what was in the boxes?

JG: Glove boxes, pipes, asbestos. We would load them on semis and then they would be driven over to the hot dump. Then I would go over there and unload them. I would stack them on paved pads. Before that they used to go into the pits. The boxes were put along side each other to build a sort of wall so we could fill it in with drums, fifty-five gallons drums of plutonium and uranium, PU-238 and 239. That pit was paved. I buried, ah hell, ten or fifteen thousand barrels in there, maybe more. The pit was forty or fifty feet deep.

PM: How did you move the drums and place them?

JG: We'd pick them up in the air with a boom. At the beginning it was just like a chain. We would pick them up and the painters would spray them. They sprayed them with a brown solution, bottom, top, and all the way around. Then they would put them in a crate. At the beginning what they would do was put them on a dumpster, just a flat, open dumpster. They would put nine barrels on. Then they would back the truck all the way down, and I would unload them down there. I would go down with the forklift and unload and stack them. We had two laborers down there all the time and two up on top. We would put in three hundred barrels once a month. They were stacked about four or five high.

Jonathan developed leukemia at age 40 and underwent a bone marrow transplant. His health continues to be extremely fragile.

Darleen Ortiz, Los Alamos resident

My father used to fish a lot. I learned how to hunt and fish from him. We used to go to a pond in Los Alamos. I think it was underneath that bridge. There was a little pier you could go off of. There were tons of fish in there. We also fished in the streams all around the town and the Rio Grande, Santa Clara, all over. He was a hunter, too. He hunted deer every year and made jerky. My Mom didn't like it fresh, it was too wild, but she'd eat it dry in fried potatoes and chile. My Dad knew where, in the restricted sites, there was game. In the places they were told to hunt there weren't many deer. He knew where the deer were and he'd go find them. Who knows what the deer ate and what they drank. We ate the deer meat every year.

He would go on his lunch hour and pick piñon from the best areas, again some of them in restricted areas. He'd bring home the biggest, fattest, piñon we'd ever seen. And every year we ate piñon. He was still picking the year before he died, and I think I still had some in the freezer up until two years ago.

We used to eat so much that grew around there. I can't imagine that some of it wasn't contaminated. We used to eat monkey nuts. Also flowers, you know how they put them in salads now. Well, we didn't have snacks. We were hungry a lot of the time and we would eat roses, carnations, and there was this orange and red flower that Mom used to grow that tasted like cloves. The acorns, the piñon, wild strawberries, and my Mom would make us snow ice cream. We always drank water from the streams, of course. As a matter of fact, I did until I was a senior in high school. The water was so cool and clear, we never imagined that it could hurt us.

My mother died of colon cancer. My father, of course, died of cancer. My oldest sister, Jo Ann, had breast cancer. My sister Linda has had tumors removed from her toes. She says it's from walking through the dump sites. I was born with a tumor. It grew to the size of a jack ball and was behind my leg. My mother miscarried in her 8th month. I would have had a brother, two years younger. He was aborted and she had a hysterectomy. He was full of tumors and she was too.

Ben Maestas, weapons specialist

When I was hired in the winter of 1947 I heard there were only six Spanish technicians in the whole Lab and I was one of them.

In reference to the Priscilla shot [one of a series of test shots, first in the South Sea Islands and later at the Nevada Test Site] it was called an "effect test." I was thinking about that the other day. Who was the guy who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma? McVeigh . . . he was talking about the children. What did he call them? Collateral damage? See, they set out monkeys, they set out rats. There was a gal from Highlands who would go out and set up piñon trees at measured distances from Ground Zero. These were "effect tests." They blew up things that looked like hotels.

I was on one shot where they had pigs and they were going to get the medical people and their ambulances involved. They had an actual apartment building built, four or five stories tall. On each of the floors they placed their pigs. They'd ring a bell and feed them randomly around the room. They did this on all five floors. The day comes and the bell goes ding ding, BOOM, and they blast the shit out of those poor pigs. The doctors and ambulances went in after the shock wave had passed. They wanted to see how many they could save. They actually performed surgical procedures on the animals.

They had safety people claiming that they were at a safe distance. They had been doing these effect tests on other living beings. They set monkeys in other areas. A bomb has a 100% kill ratio at a certain distance. Then 90% and continues to taper down until a safe distance is calculated.

I was really proud. Believe it or not, we were all deeply patriotic when I got out of the Navy. I would do anything for my country. All of us would after World War II. I felt proud that they would trust me with the whole nation's stockpile, to transfer them. They gave me the combinations to these incredible vaults.

Peter Malmgren: It was quite an honor.

Especially for an Hispanic. But then I would listen to the other guys and they would bitch and moan about how they were being held back in their work and in their pay. It was true, the Spanish people were strictly the warehouse people, or the Zia [the primary contractor at the Lab] people. I felt a little guilty, and yet I felt a lot of pride at the same time. I got to meet the national leaders of the time. It was state-of-the-art and everybody wanted to know what the bomb was all about. I was pretty impressed with all of it. Later on, I started thinking, God, this is a horrible thing I'm doing here.


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