Faculty Fanfare: Myrriah Gómez


UNM assistant professor Myrriah Gómez has published a book exploring nuclear colonialism in New Mexico. 


Gómez spent more than 10 years on the research behind Nuclear Nuevo México, which considers the effects of the nuclear industrial complex on Nuevomexicanas/os, Hispanic New Mexicans.


Gómez said she wrote the seed essay as a Master’s student in UNM’s English department in a class on globalization with Dr. Hector Torres.


“My great grandparents were one of the Nuevomexicano (Mexican American/Hispanic) families displaced from their ranches on the Pajarito Plateau when the U.S. government unlawfully acquired Los Alamos to site Project Y of the Manhattan Project,” she said. 


After her initial research for her dissertation, which focused on the effects of the Manhattan Project on northern New Mexico, Gómez began mapping how the Manhattan Project developed into the nuclear industrial complex and how New Mexico and New Mexicans, particularly people of color, continue to be impacted. 


“I began working with the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium and helped them write their Health Impact Assessment, which we released in 2017. A new study demonstrates that fallout from the 1945 Trinity test reached forty-six states, Canada, and Mexico within 10 days of detonation.”


Through her work with the consortium and other groups, Gómez, who teaches in the UNM Honors College, has been working to include voices that have been left out of historical takes on the atomic bomb. 


“Contrary to previous works that suppress Nuevomexicana/o presence throughout U.S. nuclear history, Nuclear Nuevo México focuses on recovering the voices and stories that have been lost or ignored in the telling of this history. By recuperating these narratives, Myrriah Gómez tells a new story of New Mexico, one in which the nuclear history is not separate from the collective colonial history of Nuevo México but instead demonstrates how earlier eras of settler colonialism laid the foundation for nuclear colonialism in New Mexico,” according to the summary of the book on bookshop.org.


“Gómez examines the experiences of Nuevomexicanas/os who have been impacted by the nuclear industrial complex, both the weapons industry and the commercial industry. Gómez argues that Los Alamos was created as a racist project that targeted poor and working-class Nuevomexicana/o farming families, along with their Pueblo neighbors, to create a nuclear empire. The resulting imperialism has left a legacy of disease and distress throughout New Mexico that continues today.”


Gómez said there is always a sense of urgency around July 16  each year, as it marks the anniversary of both the Trinity test in 1945 and the Church Rock Uranium Spill in 1979.


This year, there is heightened awareness because of the release of the film Oppenheimer. The movie delves into the work of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the effort to build the atomic bomb in Los Alamos during World War II.


“I encourage everyone who sees this movie to know that these blockbuster histories are incomplete and that this isn’t just an 80-year-old history, but rather that nuclear colonialism is an ever-present issue in New Mexico and elsewhere in the world,” she said.

Read a review and more about the book here.