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In 1740, a group of Hispanic families, seeking new cultivatable land, received a grant of more than 200,000 acres from the governor of Spanish New Mexico. In 1793, a church was built in the Belen Old Town Plaza under the direction of Franciscan priests. An agricultural community was formed around several plazas, and residents prospered through barter and subsistence farming. In the 1850s and 1860s, German immigrants joined Hispanic merchants to form a vibrant business community. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Belen in the 1880s, and the nearby Belen Cutoff in 1908 linked both north-south and east-west rail lines to give Belen the nickname of the Hub City. Today, more than 100 trains travel through the Belen rail yard daily.