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New Mexicans Respond to Expiration of Radiation Act

Tina Cordova of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Association
Lois Lipman
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First We Bombed New Mexico film
Tina Cordova, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Association, in an image from the film, "First We Bombed New Mexico."

Proposed federal legislation that would have compensated New Mexicans harmed by military tests is in jeopardy. That’s after the U.S. House failed to act by last week’s deadline on a bipartisan Senate measure designed to extend and expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (called “RECA”). U.S. lawmakers originally passed RECA in 1990 but the act has never addressed the suffering of people affected by the 1945 Trinity bomb test in South Central New Mexico.

“Our government's primary role. Is to take care of us. And what's happened for us here is that they irreparably harmed us and walked away. You and I could not go about our lives recklessly harming people, and then we're, when we're held to account, simply say it's gonna cost too much."

That’s Tularosa resident Tina Cordova, who has spearheaded an effort to expand RECA for nearly 20 years. She’s also a cancer survivor, one of many through several generations, in her family and community, to have dealt with radiation-caused cancer. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said the estimated cost — $50 billion over ten years — of adding New Mexico, Missouri and other states to the measure was too high. Cordova had a different take on the numbers.

“We've spent $10 trillion on our nuclear program since its inception — 50 billion over 10 years versus 10 trillion. The other number that for me is just absolutely mind blowing is that we spend $50 billion annually just maintaining our nuclear arsenal, not building a new weapon, not building a new pit, not doing anything other than putting them to bed at night.”

Cordova was in Santa Fe over the weekend for a showing of First We Bombed New Mexico, a documentary made by Santa Fe resident Lois Lipman. That film will run throughout this week at the Violet Crown.

Rob Hochschild’s professional radio career began in the late 1980s, when he worked as a news reporter at WCIB on Cape Cod and as news director for WKVA in central Pennsylvania. Prior to moving to New Mexico, he worked for Boston public radio stations WGBH, WBUR, and WUMB in a range of roles, including news reporter/anchor and music host. His career with KSFR began in September 2023, when, as a volunteer, he launched a music show called Mosaic.