Thursday, November 12, 2015

Belen, New Mexico

November 8, 2015

Belen, Spanish for Bethlehem, was founded in 1740 by two Spaniards, Captain Don Diego Torres and Antonio Salazar. It began as a community based on agriculture. It became a village in 1918, a town in 1940, and a city in 1966. With the arrival of the railroad it gained the nickname "The Hub City". Geographically it is near the center of New Mexico and has been a significant transportation hub for central New Mexico.

We started today with mass at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church. From what I could decipher reading the parish history the parish itself was established in 1793. The first church was built in the mission style and was located at the Plaza Vieja though there is no information on the date it was built. (Which must have been close to the Rio Grande River because it says, in the church's history, due to runoff and flooding of the Rio Grande the church collapsed on June 27, 1855.) It also states there was some controversy about where to build the new church, some wanted to rebuild in the original location, but it was built and blessed in its current location in 1860. It doesn't give a date but it does mention a new church was built at some point and this is the picture below. ( I hope I am interpreting what I read correctly regardless this is a picture of the church we attended for mass.)

Lunch was at Fats Bar & Grill, the owner of RV park recommended it as a place to try, and the food was good though watching the Packer game while we ate was not so good.

After a quick stop at Walmart for a few things. We took a ride around Belen.

Police station and water tower behind.

A couple of pictures from around Belen. We did see more paintings on buildings but it was getting to dark to get a good picture.

This small plaza is located across from their city hall.

It is known as the Theresa Tabet Park.
It contains a Nativity Scene that has been there for over a
quarter of a century.

These plaques are on both sides of the arch.

These two are on the Main Street side.
They relay some of the city's history.

These to are on the inside.
The top one honoring the members
of the Armed Forces.
The bottom one honors local heroes. 
 This city is now fighting with a Wisconsin based organization to keep this Nativity scene on city property. The Mayor has stated that those who oppose the Nativity scene are "outsiders" who do not understand the history and culture of New Mexico, a former Spanish territory with deep Hispanic and spiritual Catholic ties.

The artwork was erected to honor a late artist who use to erect a Nativity scene on the site each year. There are no religious references next to it. Above it says "Belen Bethlehem" and a sign hangs on the right front that says " Dedicated to the city of Belen in memory of Theresa Lovato Tabet by her loving family".

The city has considered selling the property to keep the Nativity scene up but for now it is will remain under city control. The group, Freedom From Religious Foundation, says if they city sells the property they may bid on it and replace it with a monument to nonbelievers.

Above are a few highlights I have read, written in October of this year, about what is going on. It seems someone from the area did contact the group with their concerns. I also have read that the majority of the citizens want to keep the Nativity Scene as it is a part of their history and who they are. I include this information because I hope they will be able to persevere and keep their piece of art located in this place. When we come back here over the years, and we will because of friends, I hope we will always see it peacefully sitting there in this plaza.

Escape to Egypt.
These two images are across the street.

When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
                                         ~Author Unknown


  1. We hope that the city of Belen wins their dispute and keeps their Nativity not only for historic values but for the sake of Freedom of Religion. This world showed promise and love for everyone when they had something to believe in. Since the Nay-Sayers started tearing it away at the beliefs of good people just look around at what is happening in the world.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. We would have to sadly agree. From what we learned this is a community with strong Christian values.

  2. Love checking out the local areas, Too bad about the politics though.

    1. We also enjoy checking out the local areas as we travel. We agree it is to bad about the politics.