Northern N.M’s contributions to Manhattan Project highlight of weekend conference

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A conference on the contributions and experience of northern New Mexico residents during the Manhattan Project starts Thursday.

The conference, entitled “Querencia Interrupted: Hispano and Native American Experiences of the Manhattan Project,” kicks off with a reception at the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Center, located in Alcalde, at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“Querencia Interrupted” will continue through Saturday.

“Querencia” is a Spanish word that roughly translates to mean a place or feeling of safety and security.

Much of the locations in northern New Mexico, of course, were interrupted by World War II and the establishment of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb, which would eventually help to end the war in 1945.
Patricia Trujillo, the Director of Equality and Diversity at Northern New Mexico College and one of the event organizers, said it’s important for residents of the area to learn more about these workers who often are overlooked in the history books.

“We’re hoping to start a dialogue between the community members in and around Los Alamos,” Trujillo said. “We tend to learn about the scientists, but we don’t hear about what people from our community and what they did at the lab.”
The conference will acknowledge the work done by northern New Mexico workers in and around the Manhattan Project.

Friday, the venue for the conference shifts to Northern New Mexico College in Española, which will include talks from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Lt. Governor Matthew Martinez and Felipe Gonzales of the University of New Mexico in the morning session and discussions on the social and political implications of LANL’s establishment in Northern New Mexico in the afternoon.

Saturday’s schedule includes talks about environmental impacts in northern New Mexico and in Tularosa, which was downwind of the Trinity test in June 1945.

There will also be a session on “Voices of the Manhattan Project,” which will include a viewing of filmed interviews with Eulalia Quintana Newton and Nick Salazar from the Manhattan Project era. Willie Atencio, who will be at Thursday’s opening ceremonies, collected several such interviews over the years of northern New Mexico residents who worked in and around the Manhattan Project.

Trujillo said about 150 people have registered for this year’s conference. A similar conference was held in 2016, but it was attended almost exclusively by friends and family members of featured contributors.

The Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area is recognized by the United States Congress for its unique contribution to the American experience. There are 49 designated heritage areas in the U.S., with the Northern Rio Grande area including parts of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Taos counties.