Photo Gallery: The world's largest matanza

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 1/27/20

As the sun crested the Manzano Mountains in Valencia County, matanzeros were already tending their fires and getting ready for a day full of cooking. 

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Photo Gallery: The world's largest matanza

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As the sun crested the Manzano Mountains in Valencia County, matanzeros were already tending their fires and getting ready for a day full of cooking. 

The Hispano Chamber of Valencia County celebrated 20 years of matanza tradition on Saturday (Jan. 25), when pig carcasses were distributed to 14 teams for its annual pork competition and feast. 

For generations, families across New Mexico have taken part in some sort of pig cookout, commonly called a matanza. This event brings members of the community together to slaughter, butcher and cook a pig from the outside in. Anyone at the event is welcome to the food – once the work is done. 

The chamber has been hosting its own community event to keep the culture of matanzas alive. While the traditions have changed over the years for the chamber, the feel and fun are always the same. 

Forty pigs were provided to the teams at Belen’s Eagle Park for this year’s milestone event. Teams are no longer allowed to slaughter the animals on-site, but butchering and cooking are still vital to this annual cultural event in central New Mexico.

First, pits are dug for fires. Once hot, a large pot or cooking disco is carefully placed on top, where freshly cut pork is placed. Some pots have been passed down from past generations, while others were welded just days before the competition. 

Each year the teams compete for the fans' favorite chicharrones, liver and carne adovada dishes. The competition is fierce. Cooking takes most of the day, and teams can regularly be seen heading back to the storage freezer to collect more pigs to prepare.

Community members pay $15 to try each dish cooked up at the booths and then vote on their favorite.  Winners walk away with bragging rights in this county of 75,000, but only until next year’s competition.

Each booth is manned by a team of chefs, butchers and young helpers who aspire to one day tend the pot of chicharrones and become matanzeros themselves.

Over 10,000 people made their way to the 20th annual event to take part in the tradition. Ticket sales and profits helped benefit scholarship opportunities the chamber offers to local high school students.

The event brings vendors, merchants and community members from around the Valencia County area together.

Music, food and a little bit of booze help keep a longstanding tradition of New Mexico culture alive and well. 

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