While digging through the very sparse information about the Los Lunas Hospital and Training School–an institution for adults and children with disabilities that was shut down by the Jackson Lawsuit–I ran across a website for the Los Lunas Hospital Cemetery. On the website someone had put pictures of the various headstones and each had its own page and a space for visitors to add pictures and more information. One of the first ones that had additional information was this for a baby girl named Shamarie. Her birthday was almost the same as mine but I was instantly gripped with a sadness that our lives had been very different. Her sister had found this site and had reflected that Shamarie was from rural NM and that her mother had never been allowed to hold her. She was born with Spina Bifida and was taken from her parents immediately after birth and flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. She was later placed at the Los Lunas Hospital where she lived out her two short years. Like so many New Mexicans at that time, her parents were too poor and without any resources to make the trip to Los Lunas to see her. She was buried in a peach dress that was donated by a woman in Los Lunas. Shamarie’s sister reflected that this was the great heartbreak of her mother’s life. It makes me aware of the fact that it has never been a question of whether or not I would get to take my baby home. That is the legacy of the NM disability movement–they insured that “we take our babies home.” That is what this project hopes to document and protect for future mothers.
Courtesy of the Smithsonian online exhibition “EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America.” One of only three photos I have been able to find of any of the 6 institutions once inhabited by New Mexicans with disabilities. Do you … Continue reading