In Plain Sight: Santa Fe’s Japanese Internment Camp

Santa Fe’s Japanese Internment Camp from 1942 -1946.

If you’re ever walking your pooch up at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park north of the Casa Solana neighborhood you might run across an interesting tidbit of Santa Fe history. In March 1942 through April 1946 the City of Holy Faith imprisoned 4,555 men of Japanese ancestry. Japanese Internment camps sprang up throughout the country during World War II. Most of the camps were located in the western United States. The bombing of Peral Harbor on December 7, 1941 gripped the nation leading to collective paranoia. Japanese Americans bore the brunt of the fear-based hysteria. To this day, not one of the people in the camps received a conviction for espionage or treason.

Santa Fe’s Internment Camp

Japanese prisoners in Santa Fe with the Buddhist ministers dressed in black.

Santa Fe’s internment camp consisted of so-called “enemy combatants.” Many of the prisoners were teachers, journalists, businessmen, and artists. The American government became suspicious because these people were free thinkers. The men had to leave their families, businesses, and all ties to the community. Along with these erudite prisoners were Buddhist “ministers” (teachers) who withstood the camp’s privations through the teachings of Dharma. Buddha taught the manifestation of spiritual awakening. This practice could alleviate the universal human experience of suffering. Through the enlightenment of Dharma, the detainees sought patience, and it provided them the solace needed to abide such dire conditions. During this dark time in U.S. history the seeds of Buddhism were planted in Santa Fe.

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