Matanza is the name given to a Valencia County festival held in our town of Belen annually the last Saturday in January. It’s a big deal each year with thousands who attend. It’s a heritage type festival sponsored by the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County. Matanza translates into English as “slaughter”. The festival is so named because it remembers the rural tradition of an annual family gathering where a pig was slaughtered, and pit roasted for a day of feasting and celebration.
Jessica, Joe and Noah drove down from Pagosa Springs and we got up early Saturday morning hoping to beat the rush of the big crowds for the festivities. The morning temperature was brisk on this January morning, but this almost perpetual sun we enjoy on the high desert, and the red chile I began consuming immediately kept me comfortable in only a light jacket. The event features teams who are all provided whole hogs which they pit roast and prepare in various traditional ways for the festival goers to eat and enjoy. There’s an entrance fee and then it is all you can eat after that. The gates open at 7:00 AM and the event concludes at 3:00 PM.
The girl with the backpack is Darlene waiting to move down the serving line.
There were 18 teams entered this year spread across the row of tents you see in Eagle Park in Belen. The team members assemble the night before and tend to the roasting and preparation through the night. When we arrived at 8:30 AM they were just beginning to start serving the feast. I don’t know of a bigger word to use, but when I say feast I’m understating what we were fed Saturday morning. Each of the teams offer pretty much a full meal – I wanted to sample from a lot of the teams, so I had to tell each of the servers in the lines to hold back on portions and some of the items they offered. There was roasted pulled pork, carne adovada, sausage, pork chops, chicharones, stewed red chile pork and more I’m not remembering, served with fresh tortillas, red chile corn pancakes, red chile, papacitas, and beans. The volunteer servers standing behind their pans of offerings were all smiling and enjoying the steady lines of those wanting more and more to eat.
I would get a plate and then go sit down in a chair by the band that was playing and eat and then go back and repeat. I got stuffed, but enjoyed it all so much. There was a mariachi band playing when we first arrived and then a schedule of rock and roll bands the rest of the day.
It’s a day that is all about preparing and eating pork.
The two pictures above are taken of the team working areas behind where the festival goers access the food serving tents. You can see there are lots of volunteers working which make this event possible. They get a big thank-you from me.
New Mexico enjoys a significant population of several different cultures who all combine to make this the land of enchantment. Those cultures blend and merge in a way that at least in the circles I travel, become seamless and virtually invisible to our day by day life. I love living here in the mix of it all. It’s great that some of those cultural traditions are remembered and celebrated in events like this. We left about 11:00 AM – our bellies full – passing long lines of cars going the other directions waiting to enter. We wanted to get in a round of golf to finish off the day. I’m already marking my calendar for next year.
I haven’t bothered the blog readers with a picture of a sunset in a while. This one from the fairway behind our back patio a couple nights ago. It is the land of sunsets here. Many, many nights they are photograph worthy. So many we start taking them for granted. The evenings will warm enough beginning sometime in February to just sit out as darkness falls. Creation with all its wonders blesses abundantly.