BELEN — Billowing steam and the sizzling scent of traditional cuisine will once again grace Belen Eagle Park during the 23rd annual World’s Largest Matanza taking place Saturday, Jan. 27.
“Come for the food and enjoy the entertainment,” said Bob Lucero, board president of the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County. “It’s that atmosphere of almost a mini state fair all in one day.”
The event, which lasts from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature 12 matanza teams, who will compete for the best in carne adovada, red chile, chicharrones, liver, specialty pork dishes and Iron Pig food categories.
The Iron Pig cook-off has teams create dishes that must incorporate ingredients from a mystery basket.
“Sample each one if you get an opportunity and vote for one that’s your favorite,” said Lucero.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to score bragging rights of their own through a variety of public competitions at the event.
HCVC board of directors member Shireen McDonald said they are encouraging public submissions of red chile, natillas, tortillas, salsa, biscochitos and pastelitos. She encourages participants to bring enough for at least six people and to take entries to the judge’s tent no later than 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event.
Be ready to boogie because visitors will also be treated to live music from a superb lineup including Twist and Shout: A Beatles Tribute Band from 8:15-10:15 a.m., followed by Daniel Solis at 10:30-11:45 a.m., and Black Pearl will finish out the event from 12-1:30 p.m.
“A matanza is a long-time cultural tradition in New Mexico going back hundreds of years,” read a press release from the chamber. “Many New Mexicans and visitors from around the globe come to remember and meet family and friends to share in this long-time tradition.”
Sha’ Luna-Hicks, a member of the Chicarones team, said one of her favorite parts of participating in the matanza is being able to support local college students, as much of the proceeds go toward scholarships given out annually by the HCVC.
Last year, the chamber awarded $59,000 dollars worth of scholarships to local students generated from the matanza.
“It is a lot of work, but we know it’s for the kids and scholarships so we appreciate doing that,” said Luna-Hicks.
James Lucero, another Chicarones team member, said a lot of preparation goes into setting up the matanza.
“We’ll spend all day Friday setting up the serving and cutting table, grills, cooking areas, serving areas … Everything has to be separated like we’re setting up a restaurant,” said James Lucero. “It’s a lot of work in a two day period, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
“We honestly wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t enjoy it,” said Chicarones team member Greg Ulibarri. “Yes, it’s a fundraiser; yes, it’s hard work but we enjoy everything about it.”
Felix Espinoza, representing New Mexico Sen. Gregory Baca’s team, has been participating in the World’s Largest Matanza since the early years when there were only a few teams. He said he grew up with matanzas as they’ve been a long-time tradition in his family.
“My favorite part is serving the people and seeing the amount of people who show up — it’s awesome,” said Espinoza. “To see we’re called the World’s Largest Matanza is also pretty special.”
Bob Lucero said he’s already received calls of interest from people in Louisiana, Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas and beyond about visiting the matanza.
This year, Bob Lucero said they’re expecting around 11,000 attendees so he urges the public to take advantage of the free park-and-ride shuttle service that has buses running continuously from Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church to the park. Parking in designated areas on Church and 10th streets in Belen is free.
To accommodate for the large crowd this year, Lucero said they will move vendors away from the middle area and move the stage closer to the teams area so there will be more room in the middle for attendees to enjoy.
The entry fee is $20 per person and children ages 10 and younger get in free. Tickets will only be sold at the gate as an effort to deter fraud. Cash and cards will both be accepted at the gate.
“There’s so many people that look forward to it every year, especially our elderly folks who remember the very first ones at the sheriff’s posse,” said Bob Lucero. “They get an opportunity to regroup with friends and family they haven’t seen in awhile. The food and tradition of getting together, that’s what really drives the whole atmosphere.”
For more information, visit the World’s Largest Matanza Facebook page or HispanoChamberVC.org.
If you go:
- When: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27
- Where: Belen Eagle Park, 305 Eagle Park Lane
- Parking: Free parking in designated areas on Church and 10th streets in Belen. The bus shuttle will take you to the entrance on the field. There is also general parking near the entrance which contains handicap parking access.
- Cost: $20 per person and ages 10 and under are free. Tickets include all-day food tasting and live music entertainment. Cash or card is accepted and tickets will only be sold at the gate.
- No pets allowed; service dogs only.
2024 Team List:
- Rio Grande Mantanzeros
- Joshua A. Sanchez for Senator
- Team Greg Baca
- Los Lunas Schools
- Los Lunas Parks and Rec
- Tierra del Sol Golf Club
- The Chicarones
- 150th Special Ops Wing
- City of Belen
- Blackrock and TLC
- New Mexico Plaster and Supply
- Farmers Insurance
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.