Matanza translated to English means “Slaughter,” but for many New Mexicans, it’s synonymous with togetherness and family.

As one of the oldest traditions practiced in the United States, the Matanza holds a special place in the hearts of many New Mexicans. 

What started out 20 years ago, as a way to bring the community together and raise money for local students, has grown from its humble beginnings in front of the Sheriff’s Posse to encompass most of Belen’s Eagle Park. As the years have gone on, not only has the venue changed but so has the number of guests, making it the World’s Largest Matanza with over 10,000 visitors. 

With the purchase of a $15 ticket, you get all-you-can-eat pork meals. Alongside chicharrones, carnitas and chile, you’ll find other delicacies like pork liver and red chili pancakes. 

Starting well before daybreak, 15 teams fired up the propane on their discos (metal cooking disks), the wood in their fire pits, and flat-top griddles to prepare for the day’s event. Although this event is held outdoors, and most of the cooks have very little, if any professional culinary experience, this isn’t your uncle’s Matanza. Most of the teams have been together for years, many of them cooking at this event since its inception. This event is also monitored very closely by USDA inspectors to ensure safety and cleanliness. 

While these teams compete for culinary glory, that isn’t their main motivation. Most of the teams focused on the customers and the students for whom they are helping raise money for college scholarships.

According to Rita Garcia from the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County, the World’s Largest Matanza has raised almost $200,000 and given 275 scholarships to local students. According to Ms. Garcia, this year being the 20th anniversary, “Was by far the most well attended.” The Hispano Chamber of Valencia County will award this year’s scholarships in the first part of May. 

Mike Sandoval is a freelance photographer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @msandovalphotos