BELEN— It’s back.
After a two-year hiatus, the World’s Largest Matanza — the signature scholarship fundraiser for the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County — is back and ready to let the eager public sample traditional matanza foods.
The last time the event was held was January 2020, narrowly avoiding the cancellation of mass gatherings as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country and Valencia County.
“It’s amazing,” said Bob “Lucky” Lucero, chamber board president for 2022-23, of the Matanza’s return this weekend. “People are so happy. It’s almost like getting to see someone you haven’t seen in a long time.”
This year, the Matanza will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28, at Eagle Park in Belen. Wristbands are $20 at the gate — cash or card — and those 10 and younger get in for free.
The Matanza, a day-long celebration of food, culture, music and community, was cancelled in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19 concerns. Thanks to the continued tradition of generosity on the part of the community, the chamber was able to award scholarships to dozens of local students both years.
This year, 12 teams will compete to create the best carne adovada, red chile, chicharrones, liver dish and the always mysterious, Iron Pig dish, which is made with an unknown basket of ingredients given to each team on the day of the Matanza.
“We say come at 4:30 a.m., but they always come at 4,” Lucero said of the teams.
Once all the teams have passed the food safety inspection of their booths, they will begin cooking. The gates will open at 7 a.m. to welcome attendees and the opening ceremonies will be at 8 a.m.
Live music will be provided throughout the day with LOADED, the Daniel Solis Band and Black Pearl performing. Belen-based DJ Wayne Gallegos will also be set up for the day, providing music and fun between performances.
Starting at 6:45 a.m., on Saturday, busses will begin loading passengers at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church to shuttle them to the park. Parking at the church, 101-A N. 10th St., is free, and busses will take attendees to the Matanza site about every five minutes, Lucero said.
“To me, that’s the easiest way,” he said.
Parking at Eagle Park is mostly reserved for Matanza teams, the bands and board members and other volunteers working the event. There will be handicap accessible parking near the entrance of the event area.
Wristbands for entry into the Matanza will only be sold at the gate this year, Lucero said.
“We have tried pre-sales in the past and, unfortunately, people are creative online and there have been things set up that say ‘buy your tickets here’ and it’s not us,” he said.
In addition to the individual food categories, the teams will be competing for the coveted People’s Choice Award. Lucero encourages attendees to go to each of the booths to sample their food and vote for their favorite.
“We want to really encourage people to sample everything. That’s what this is — sampling. You’re not feeding the entire family for the day,” he said. “Each team has its own variants on what they love to cook and prepare.”
As the president this year, Lucero said this is the first time since he got involved with the chamber in 2017 that he isn’t tasked with a specific job.
If you go
What: Hispano Chamber of Valencia County World’s Largest Matanza
When: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28
Where: Eagle Park, 305 Eagle Park Lane, Belen
Cost: $20 per person; 10 and younger get in free. Tickets will only be sold at the gate the day of the Matanza. Cash or cards will be accepted
2023 Matanza Vendors
Smokin’ Joe’s Custom Art
Kirtland Credit Union
Partners in Education
RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program)
2023 Matanza Entertainment
9:30-10:30 a.m. — LOADED
11 a.m. to 12 p.m. — The Daniel Solis Band
12:30-2 p.m. — Black Pearl Band
7 a.m.-2 p.m. — DJ Wayne Gallegos
“I’m usually at the Christopher (Road) gate all day and miss the opening events. I just get the scraps,” he said with a laugh. “This year, I’m going to be able to enjoy it overall. I’ll visit the teams, check in on the VIP tent, be up on stage to welcome everyone back.”
While the Matanza has been at Eagle Park for many years, this year it will be in a slightly different area. Instead of setting up on the grass playing fields on the northwest side of the park, the Matanza teams, vendors and bands will be in the park’s new event space just to the south of the fields and gravel parking lot.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how the new area works. That’s why we limited this year to 20 vendors, until we get a feel for the size,” Lucero said. “One thing we’re cautious but encouraged about is the amount of people that are going to show up. On Facebook, we have a bit more than 11,500 hits on the page.
2023 Matanza Teams
Farmer’s Insurance, John Chavez and Cathy Muse Agency
New Mexico Plaster and Supply Inc.
Tierra Del Sol Golf Club
Los Bomberos by Blackrock
Los Lunas Schools
The Chicarones by Luna-Hicks Home Team & Keisha Rogers with Primary Residential Mortgage Inc.
City of Belen
Rio Grande Matanzeros
N.M. Sen. Gregory E. Baca
150th Special Operations Wing
2023 Matanza Sponsors
Kirtland Credit Union
Los Lunas Schools
Belen Consolidated Schools
City of Belen
Sisneros Brothers Manufacturing
University of New Mexico-Valencia campus
Fiesta Tent Rentals
A&A Plumbing Service
Belen Railway Employees Credit Union
First New Mexico Bank — Los Lunas LPO
San Bar Construction
Sandia Laboratory FCU
Village of Los Lunas
Valencia County News-Bulletin
Melloy Auto Los Lunas
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.