What remains of Oppenheimer’s New Mexico?

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What remains of Oppenheimer’s New Mexico?



On the highway between Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch is Bode General Store, a roadside stop popular for its tamales and green chile burgers. It’s not that different from what it was 80 years ago, when O’Keeffe and Oppenheimer were among its clientele. And while filming Oppenheimer, Ybbaro said, it was also a standby for the cast and crew.

Oppenheimer’s invisible legacy

Oppenheimer and his colleagues took inspiration from more than just these landscapes. Families who own land downwind of White Sands or any of the region’s hundreds of uranium mining sites – a community known today as “downwinders” – know that the Manhattan Project cost countless lives in New Mexico. In the upcoming documentary First We Bombed New Mexico, Filmmaker Lois Lipman shares dozens of stories that together paint a picture of the “mass cancers and deaths” that swept the state in the decades after the Trinity test.

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People can also experience the central landscapes of this part of history – if they dare. Places like Hoot Owl Canyon, once called “Hot Canyon” by the government because of its searing levels of gamma radiation from nuclear fallout from the Trinity test. carried by the wind, are open to the public, Lipman said. No recent studies indicate whether the area is still radioactive. But the radioactivity in nuclear fallout has a lifespan of 24,000 years – or, as some wind scientists say, 7,000 generations.

Much like the picturesque Pajarito Plateau and Ghost Ranch, Hot Canyon, with its red rock bridges and pinnacles, is forever linked to Oppenheimer – albeit controversially. Indeed, 18 months after the Manhattan Project began, Oppenheimer reportedly looked at the desert he loved and confessed, “I am responsible for the ruin of a beautiful place.”

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