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Demonstrators take issue with museum’s focus on N.M.’s atomic history

July 14, 2018

Yasuyo Nugent let her words echo as she left the microphone, emotions washing over her as fellow protester Chris Banks reached out and hugged her.

Nugent held the embrace as someone else’s words started booming from loudspeakers about the suffering caused by nuclear weapons — suffering Nugent had seen first hand.

Originally from Hiroshima, Japan, Nugent turned back around toward the gathering of about 20 protesters outside the New Mexico History Museum in downtown Santa Fe on Friday morning. An expression of pain slowly lifted from her face as others talked about hope for the future.

“I hope people in New Mexico and the states and people in Hiroshima, Japan, and all over the world will share the truth and correct information and decide what we’d like to have in this world,” Nugent said.

Activist groups including Los Alamos Study Group and ANSWER Coalition organized the demonstration in response to the museum’s exhibit Atomic Histories, part of Atomic Summer events surrounding the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Doctor Atomic about the development of the atomic bomb in New Mexico.

The city of Santa Fe, Recursos de Santa Fe and Los Alamos County are organizing panels, films and exhibitions including Tech and the West as part of the Atomic Summer series centered around the New Mexico’s past with the atomic bomb.

“[The events] are being presented as a way to talk about atomic history of New Mexico as something to be proud of,” said Marissa Elyse Sanchez, a national organizer with ANSWER Coalition. “Really what it is is a propaganda campaign for people in New Mexico to feel positively about nuclear activity.”

With bright yellow signs and speakers broadcasting their message to end support for nuclear programs, the protesters decried what they see as the glorification of atomic history.

A museum representative could not be reached for comment. A news release about the exhibit said: “Visitors are encouraged to overcome their fears and visit Atomic Histories to learn more about the complex historical events which have taken place over the last century in New Mexico.”

The city of Santa Fe, Recursos de Santa Fe and Los Alamos County are organizing panels, films and exhibitions including Tech and the West as part of the Atomic Summer series centered around the New Mexico’s past with the atomic bomb.

“[The events] are being presented as a way to talk about atomic history of New Mexico as something to be proud of,” said Marissa Elyse Sanchez, a national organizer with ANSWER Coalition. “Really what it is is a propaganda campaign for people in New Mexico to feel positively about nuclear activity.”

Holtec International submitted a proposal last spring for a consolidated interim storage facility in Lea County for about 5,000 tons of spent uranium nuclear waste. Sanchez argues Atomic Summer amounts to a marketing campaign such proposals.

Nugent, who has lived in Santa Fe for eight years, said the New Mexico History Museum’s exhibit tells a one-sided story. As someone who has lived among victims of the atomic bomb, she said she thinks their plight is being ignored.

“I just can’t believe they didn’t have this information,” she said. “People in New Mexico visit the museum. They deserve enough information, sufficient information, for themselves to decide what they’d like to have.”

Sanchez said the protest was meant to inspire discussion. As the opera Doctor Atomic debuts at the Santa Fe Opera on Saturday, she said, activists will be there handing out pamphlets.

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