Belen, New Mexico

  • The New Mexico RailRunner at the Belen Station
  • Main Street in Belen late on a Sunday afternoon
  • Belen City Hall
  • In downtown Belen
  • Belen Public Library

While "Belen" is the Spanish name for "Bethlehem," the town is more famous because of the Belen Railroad Cutoff. Before the Cutoff was built, train traffic generally crossed over Raton Pass, a long, steep mountain crossing that considerably cut into the number of trains that could run through the area at any one time. The Belen Cutoff changed all that and made it possible to run an average of 110 trains per day through the southern Rocky Mountain region.

Belen was founded by Antonio Salazar and his brother-in-law, Captain Don Diego Torres in 1740. They were accompanied by 40 families who had come to farm the land. Over time they expanded their operations into sheep ranching and the town began to grow. After the Mexican-American War, immigration to the area increased significantly and the Belen area developed into a mercantile center serving the area west to Arizona and east to the Estancia Valley. The first railroad tracks arrived in 1880, bringing in shops, an ice plant, a roundhouse, a depot and miles and miles of track yards. The village of Belen was first incorporated in 1918. Belen became a town in 1940 and a city in 1966.

Belen is near the southern county line of Valencia County but is still considered part of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population of Belen is up about 5.6% since 2000.

The Rail Cafe at Belen Station
The Rail Cafe at Belen Station
Fast Facts about Belen, New Mexico
Belen, Valencia County, NM 87002
Latitude: 34.6656°N
Longitude: 106.7762°W
Established: 1740
Elevation: 4,810'

High School or Higher: 70.2%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 12.6%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 2.7%
Cost of Living Index for Belen: 92.4

2014 Estimates:
Median Household Income: $31,370
Median Home Value: $112,260
Median Resident Age: 34.6 Years
Major Industries:
Educational Services, Health Care, Government, Construction, Lodging & Food Services, Retail Services, Social Services, Finance & Insurance Services, Transportation Services
Unemployed (August 2014): 7.3%
Population Demographics: 2010
Total Population 7,269
Males 3,503
Females 3,766
Population by Age
Under 18 1,765
18 & over 5,504
20-24 510
25-34 815
35-49 1,300
50-64 1,448
65 & over 1,204
Population by Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino 4,745
Non Hispanic or Latino 2,524
Population by Race
White 5,401
African-American 104
Asian 32
Native American 186
Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 9
Other 1,185
Two or more 352
Photo of the Belen Public Library courtesy of AllenS
Other photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License