BELEN—As many expected, the annual Hispano Chamber of Valencia County has canceled its annual fundraiser — the World’s Largest Matanza — due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The annual event has been held on the last Saturday of January for 20 years.
Julie Romero Benavidez, HCVC board president, said the Matanza has always been known for two things — tradition and supporting local students.
“Everyone knows the chamber promotes the Matanza as an event that preserves our traditions, but the other biggest objective is to raise as much money as we can to give it all away,” Benavidez said.
Every year, after the books close for the all-day, all-you-can-eat event, the chamber sets aside enough seed money to buy the 20-25 pigs it will need for the next year’s Matanza.
“The number of scholarships we can award is determined by what we can make on that one day,” she said.
For the class of 2020, the chamber was able to award 82 $500 scholarships.
“The good news for the last two years is the Matanza was so successful we could award a scholarship to everyone who applied,” Benavidez said. “We have an in-depth process of scoring all the applications, which we went through, but in the end, everyone won.”
When the scholarships were awarded last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic was going strong, so the HCVC board made the decision to hold back $20,000 for scholarships in 2021, knowing the Matanza would most likely need to be canceled.
“Because we aren’t having a Matanza, we are doing a scholarship drive this year,” she said.
There are a few different ways the community can support the scholarship drive, Benavidez said.
One way is to directly sponsor one or more scholarships. There are five sponsorship levels — from Bronze at $500, which is one scholarship, up to Premier at $10,000, which is 20 scholarships.
Businesses or individuals can sponsor a scholarship, she said, and all sponsors will get a “Piggy Plaque,” custom engraved by Sisneros Bros. in Belen.
“They make the award plaques every year for the different contest categories; I’m sure everyone has seen them, shaped like a pig,” she said. “They will engrave them with the sponsor name and number of scholarships they sponsored.
“If you don’t have an extra $500 laying around, we will be selling raffle tickets for $15 each.”
The raffle prizes are a “Dumpster” custom grill made and donated by AC Disposal Services with metal artwork by Sisneros Bros.; a cooking disco donated by Sisneros Bros., and four half pigs, donated by Kyzer Farms.
Benavidez said a “Dumpster” grill was raffled off at the 2020 Matanza and raised about $6,000, resulting in 12 scholarships alone.
“Being a goal-oriented board, we needed a target for the scholarship drive and raffle. We would like to raise another $20,000 so we can match the 82 scholarships we gave to the class of 2020.
“It’s not the kids’ fault we don’t have a Matanza. They still need help going to college,” Benavidez said.
“We are all sad we can’t eat chicharones and hear good music, but our passion and commitment is to supporting our youth. The beautiful thing is we support all the high schools in Valencia County as well as The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. We hope everyone who believes in higher education will help.
“If you are a graduate in Valencia County, we want to help invest in your future in the hope you’ll come back and give back.”
One HCVC scholarship recipient who’s done that is the board’s President-elect Daniel Chadborn, an attorney.
“Every year, he was in college he’d come back and help with every Matanza. We considered him an ex officio member of the board. He’s never forgotten the help and he will be board president in July,” she said.
Benavidez said the chamber is going to have its traditional shirts and aprons with the Matanza logo for sale online once the logistics have been worked out.
The drawing for the raffle prizes will be on May 1.
To sponsor a scholarship, contact the chamber at 306-9606 or [email protected].
To purchase raffle tickets, visit addmi.com/events and look for the Hispano Chamber Scholarship Raffle events with this year’s masked pigs logo. Click the blue “register” button to purchase as many raffle tickets as you’d like.
For more information about the HCVC, visit hispanochambervc.org.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.