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Santa Fe's Japanese Internment Camp

For many, the news that Santa Fe once was home to an internment camp will come as a surprise. For others, it is a reminder of what can happen in the throes of conflict. The Santa Fe Internment Camp, established in March 1942, incarcerated over 4,500 Japanese immigrant men, making it one of America’s largest prison camps for resident aliens in the U.S. during WWII. Fifty year later, secrecy and misinformation in wartime caused confusion and discord, delaying the placement of a historical marker in the camp's location.

In an historic and healing event on April 20, 2002, the City of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Internment Camp (SFIC) Historical Marker Committee dedicated the SFIC Historical Marker on a hill at Frank S. Ortiz Park. It was a peaceful resolution to a heated and long-standing community controversy. At the dedication ceremony in 2002, Dr. Thomas Chávez, then director of the Palace of the Governors and a committee co-chair, stated, “We are here not to celebrate an event about which none of us is proud; we are here to commemorate an event that happened; it is our history.”

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the placement of the marker, several events will take place:

  • On Saturday, April 23, 2022, a day-long symposium titled "Stories, Memories, and Legacies - The Santa Fe Internment Camp and Its Historical Marker," will be held at the New Mexico History Museum from 10-4:30 to inform and remind attendees of the historical existence of the U.S. Justice Department internment camp on the site of the present Casa Solana neighborhood, and to memorialize the experience of thousands of Japanese immigrants and American-born citizens unjustly incarcerated there between 1942 and 1946. The symposium will include speakers, readers theater performances, films and panel discussions on the Marker controversy, as well as connections between the historical events and contemporary issues.

and, a display of SFIC artifacts from the History Museum’s collection

  • While at the New Mexico History Museum, visitors can view three related exhibits in Room 15 of the Palace of the Governors from April 9-30 during Museum hours:

“Generational Legacies: The Santa Fe Internment Camp,” which focuses on the lives of two SFIC internees, a guard and their descendants, including local Santa Fe artist Jerry West;

panels on the SFIC from Confinement in the Land of Enchantment, a National Parks Service project;

and, a display of SFIC artifacts from the History Museum’s collecti

  • Following the symposium attendees will be invited to make a pilgrimage to the marker site at Ortiz Park with a procession, prayers, and drumming performances by a Santa Fe taiko group.

For more information about the event contact Dr. Gail Okawa at

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