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Carrizozo joins struggle to receive compensation for atomic bomb tests

Note: This story was originally published on March 30, 2018, at

Casey Torres

March 30, 2018 06:58 PM

CARRIZOZO, N.M. – It’s been a 13-year-long fight.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders are continuing their efforts to be included to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), having reached out to communities near the Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb test took place in the summer of 1945.

The Downwinders believe the test has led to illnesses that generations of New Mexicans have suffered from, including cancer. On Thursday the Downwinders held a meeting at the Carrizozo Town Hall to hear the stories of the families who live there.

Those residents shared stories of loss and the battles with cancer that they and their family members have struggled with.

It was a heavy atmosphere, but some residents also smiled and laughed after saying they were grateful to still be alive.

Some residents, like Bernice Gutierrez, who was born eight days before the test, believe their poor health is tied to the nuclear bomb test.

“My mother suffered with three bouts of cancer,” Gutierrez said. “My sister had two bouts and is currently undergoing another bout of cancer.”

She said 25 of her relatives have been diagnosed with cancer, but not all of them were born in Carrizozo. Instead, Gutierrez said she believes it’s being passed down.

Tina Cordova, cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders, has been working to get people like Gutierrez the help they need.

“We’ve been working for 13 years now to bring attention to this and get amendments passed to what’s called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, so that the people in New Mexico can be included in the fund that compensates people who get sick,” Cordova said.

The Downwinders were invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee twice last year, but Cordova says both of the hearings were postponed. She added that they have been notified of additional hearings in June and July of this year, but exact dates aren't set just yet.

Cordova says she plans on taking a group of 10 to 12 people with her to Washington D.C. to have their stories heard.

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