Leaders of Belen took a moment Friday, March 15, to honor a landmark in the city, just before demolition began.
The building, which originally housed the Belen General Hospital at 520 N. Main Street, is being demolished to make room for a new administrative building for the Belen School District.
Belen Schools Superintendent Don Duran acknowledged the site as a sacred place.
“This site has been the place where the community took care of its sick and elderly and helped its youth,” Duran said of the building when it was a hospital and then a school administration office.
“As the memories of this place have been told, there have been happy stories with laughter and sad ones with tears. Many of our staff were born here and many had relatives’ lives either saved here or end here. This was a place where life began and life ended.”
As he walked through the building prior to the demolition, Luis Torres, former owner of the Belen General Hospital, was flooded with memories about his days there.
“I have mixed emotions about this,” he told the audience at the ceremony. “I hate to see this building go down, but we have to make room for progress.”
Besides serving his community by working to prolong its members’ lives, Torres had his own joys and sorrows at the Belen General Hospital. “Two of my children were born here, and both of my parents died here,” he said.
Belen School Board President Julian Luna was another one of those who experienced joy and sorrow at the hospital.
“I was born here, and both my grandparents died here. I am proud we are not replacing this important site in our community with a strip mall but with an administration building where the community will come,” he said.
Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres summed up the community’s pleasure in the school board’s decision to replace the old building with a new administration building.
“I want to thank the school board for building the new administration building on Main Street, like every important building in our city should be,” Torres said.
Construction of the new building will begin in April, with completion expected in December.