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Belen

Trip Planner USA  /  New Mexico  /  Belen
(4.3/5 based on 40+ reviews for 1 attraction)
Things to do: museums
Belen is the second most populous city in Valencia County, New Mexico, United States, after its county seat Los Lunas. The population was 7,239 in 2013 census data.Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem but gained the nickname "The Hub City" because of a major rail junction on BNSF Railway's Southern Transcon rail line. The city is geographically near the center of New Mexico and has been a significant transportation hub for central New Mexico that includes access to rail, the interstate and air at Valencia County's only public airport.Belen is at the southern end of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is located 35 miles south of Albuquerque.HistoryBelen was founded in 1741 as Nuestra Senora de Belen by a group of Spanish colonists led by Diego Torres and Antonio Salazar, who received permission to settle the tract of land known as the Belen Grant the year before. Recognizing the strategic significance of Belen, Spanish authorities established a fort in Belen to protect the settlements along the Rio Grande in 1760. By the 1790s, Belen had established a city center known as Plaza Vieja, or Old Town, and had grown from a paraje, or precinct, to a partido, or district, with a population of 1,695. By 1793, a Catholic church and parish was founded.By the middle of the 19th century, Belen had outgrown Old Town and was expanding into what became known as New Town. In 1853, the residents in each part of town disagreed over the construction of a new Catholic church, with residents of Old Town wanting the new church to remain there, while residents of New Town wanted it built in their part of town. Ultimately, the adobe church in Old Town was abandoned and a new church was built in New Town. In 1910, the last ruins of the former church were dynamited and the crushed adobe was used to pave New Town's main avenue—Becker Avenue.
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