7-6 July Happening Month in NM History
SANTA FE – July is a big month in New Mexico history. So as part of our continuing statehood centennial coverage, let's talk about some of our July happenings.
Historian Marc Simmons says New Mexico saw a July 4 celebration in Taos as early as 1825, only four years after opening of the Santa Fe Trail. Simmons says the early traders didn't have an American flag so they used a flag with the American eagle on it. The Spanish likely recognized it as the Mexican eagle and cheered along, thinking the Americanos were adapting to the new culture amazingly fast.
In the July 8, 1947 Roswell Daily Record, the banner headline blared that the Roswell Army Air Force Base had captured a flying saucer. That may be all that happened. Various people reported seeing falling objects, crashes or debris fields but none of it survived. Evidently the Army meticulously picked up everything.
The following day, Army headquarters declared it was a weather balloon and nothing more was said. But the news release, issued by the base commander, went viral as they say now. Never before or since has a governmental agency announced the capture of a UFO. It was denied by "higher headquarters" the following day but there had to be some reason for the news release.
So even though other places in the world have better UFO stories, Roswell always has remained king, drawing many visitors and events. Other New Mexico locations now have their own stories, which draw tourists for a UFO tour of New Mexico to visit Socorro, Aztec, Magdalena and Archuleta Mesa too.
Billy the Kid was shot by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, NM. That was before statehood but Billy continues to roam the state causing trouble. In the past few years, the Kid has almost been dug up and almost pardoned for killing Sheriff Brady.
The latest news about the Kid is that on June 16, someone broke into both Fort Sumner Billy the Kid museums. They were ransacked and weapons were stolen. They also broke into the cage that protects The Kid's grave. They toppled the large "Billy and Pals" marker, then proceeded to the other graves in the cemetery and toppled, defaced or destroyed them.
A $1,000 reward has been offered through Crimestoppers. Several individuals and groups are said to be planning to add to that amount. According to Tim Sweet at the museum, the cemetery is being put back together. The big marker is back up but there has been some permanent damage to the old sandstone markers, which cannot be fixed.
The Trinity explosion occurred on July 16, 1945 on what then was the Alamogordo Bombing Range. It was the first atomic bomb ever detonated. The blast was in the northeast corner of the range near U.S. 380.
Scientists had made estimates of how dangerous they thought the blast would be. But no one knew for sure. They took care of their people and special guests. But ranchers in the area were not warned or evacuated.
Some from the area showed immediate effects. Others developed cancer in future years. Some reported that government agents checking on them said their reactions were caused by being Hispanic.
Congress has passed laws compensating downwinders in Nevada and Utah from the Nevada atomic tests in the 1950s. But nothing has been done for downwinders of the Trinity test.
An organization has been formed called the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium to seek compensation through our congressional delegation. Bills were introduced in both houses of Congress last year.
On July 14 this year, The Tularosa downwinders are holding their third annual luminaria lighting and prayer vigil from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Tularosa Little League Field in cooperation with the Village of Tularosa. A Native American medicine man and other faith healers will participate. Legislators and other dignitaries have been invited.