DOWNWIND is the untold story of thousands of American citizens who were irradiated by their own government.
DOWNWIND follows Tina Cordova, a dynamic Latina businesswoman and cancer survivor, who is catalyzing a people’s movement in south-central New Mexico.
Tina and a chorus of rural mothers are demanding to be heard more than 70 years after the Trinity blast, when the world’s first atomic bomb was secretly detonated in their backyard in 1945, contaminating the surrounding land and water.
Never warned, acknowledged, or compensated, the New Mexico Downwinders have silently suffered generations of cancers. Since 2005, they've fought to change that legacy but gained little traction.
The summer of 2018 brings a turning point: behind Tina's leadership, a group of Downwinders travel to the nation's capitol to tell their story for the first time before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, in a surprising twist, participate in a production of Dr. Atomic at the world-class Santa Fe Opera.
Securing justice for the Atomic Age’s first victims might be a critical step in changing the arc of the nuclear industry’s future. This could not be more urgent as the famed Doomsday Clock ticks to two minutes to midnight, and plans are underway to ramp up the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Perhaps more than this, Tina Cordova and the New Mexico Downwinders have something to show us all about persevering in a dark time—something about finding one’s voice, engaging the political process, and believing in one's self and each other...against the odds.
Tina Cordova put the pieces together when she diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in 1998
Tina finally understood why her hometown of Tularosa, 35 miles downwind from the Trinity Atomic Bomb test site, was suffering a plague of cancers since the 1950's.
When Tina was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, her doctor asked her when she was exposed to radioactivity.
Tina started the Trinity Downwinders Consortium in 2005 with the goal of fighting for compensation and acknowledgement from the Federal Government.
In June 2018, Tina and nine rural New Mexico women traveled to Washington DC to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee Meeting with the hopes of amending RECA, (The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.) This is the historic first time the New Mexico downwinders story has been heard in Congress.
People who live Downwind to the Nevada atomic test site, residents of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, have received compensation through RECA since 1990, but New Mexico has been excluded.
Tina's testimony is a small but significant step get RECA amended to have it include New Mexico downwinders.
On July 16, 1945, the US military secretly detonated the world's first atomic bomb from a 100-foot tower in the New Mexico desert.
At 5:29 am, the blast scorched the sky with "a light greater than 1,000 suns," threw children from their bunk beds, turned black livestock white, and shattered windows 150 miles away in Santa Fe. Toxic fallout rained down like snow onto nearby towns for three days. Many thousands of residents lived within a 50 mile radius—some families as close as 12 miles from the Trinity site.
A team of epidemiologists, commissioned by the CDC in 1999, labored for 10 years to obtain documents from the Los Alamos National Laboratory that expose the government’s awareness of potential health risks to nearby communities and an evacuation plan for residents that went unexecuted. The resulting Los Alamos Historical Document and Retrieval Assessment Project (LAHDRA) revealed that nearly 10 pounds of plutonium failed to fission at the Trinity test site and drifted into the nearby region.
Toxicity at certain areas reached more than 10,000 times recommended health and safety limits.
Weeks later the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war in the Pacific. While the nation charged onwards, the forgotten citizens in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin were left to shoulder inconceivable burdens in this "national sacrifice zone."
It has been more than 70 years since the detonation at Trinity. To date, no one has ever returned to acknowledge or compensate the New Mexico Downwinders for their sacrifice.
The ultimate goal of the Downwinders is to mobilize Congress to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to include New Mexico victims. Congress passed RECA in 1990 to provide Nevada Downwinders compensation and medical insurance. To date, they have received more than two billion dollars while the New Mexico Downwinders have yet to receive anything.