elen of cattle and alfalfa and rodeos and trains. In the middle of New Mexico, entering the town of Belen, there is always a train; lying close to the flat land, with its rhythmic boxcars multiplying the horizon. And there is always sun. The sun's position determines beauty in these parts; light is the creation of awe.
Belen's slogan is "The Hub City." It's one of the biggest switching yards west of the Mississippi, where trains stop for their 1,000–mile checkup of wheels and brakes. One hundred trains pass through a day, with no particular schedule. It seems good, hopeful, that trains are on the upswing: one worker said that one train equals hundreds of semi trucks.
And if they really do start up a commuter rail, maybe Belen's historic red brick buildings and its barely-getting-by citizens will have a shot at revitalizing their relationship to the rest of us. But as J.B. Jackson wrote, "the road is a very powerful space, and unless it is handled very carefully and constantly watched, it can undermine and destroy the existing order."
Dents in lampposts and worn-away lettering on the sides of empty storefronts tell the stories of tears and love and such common elements as those. If you want to use the past to describe the present, know that history is pictured everywhere; it hangs thick in the air of what appears to be an empty street. And the past includes all of the seconds leading up to right now.