Chicharrones galore! - Albuquerque Journal

Chicharrones galore!

From left, Milton Rodriguez and Steve Gallegos cut strips of pork for chicharrones at the “World’s Largest Matanza” in Belen on Saturday. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

BELEN – Tradition brought cooks like Jeff Flores to the “World’s Largest Matanza” on Saturday.

The Albuquerque resident has participated in Valencia County’s communal cookout for 17 years, and this year was no different, with Flores helping prepare a pig with friends and family members, including his three grandchildren.

“It’s a whole family thing – we got here at 5:30,” Flores said of arriving very early at Eagle Park, where the 20th annual event was hosted by the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County.

The matanza attracted thousands of eaters, who, after paying a $15 entry fee, enjoyed some of the most traditional and savory foods New Mexico has to offer – and for a good cause. Event proceeds fund the Community Incentive Scholarship for seniors graduating from Valencia County high schools or University of New Mexico Valencia Campus students.

One of the many tasty pork dishes served up at the matanza. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Rita Garcia, an officer on the chamber board, estimated 10,000 people attended this year, including international visitors. She said they were “shooting for 100 scholarships” this year.

“It’s a huge thing for these kids,” said Laynette Lucero, a mother of one of the scholarship recipients. Thanks in part to the scholarship, Lucero said her daughter is attending New Mexico State University to become a dental hygienist.

Lucero said she was at the matanza this year to pay it forward.

As for Flores, 19 folks were part of his group, all of whom were needed to prepare the meat.

After cleaning the carcass of its organs, the pig was shaved and cut into strips where it could then be prepared into chicharrones, pork chops or carne adovada.

Part of the tradition for their group is to compete in the matanza’s cook-off, entering crispy chicharrones, spicy carne adovada, chopped liver and a specialty pork dish in the contest.

But meat-based dishes weren’t the only menu items being judged. So were red chile, tortillas, bizcochitos, salsa, pastelitos and natilla.

Jesse Flores, Jeff’s nephew, said they’ve taken first place in the chicharrones category once before.

On the grill side of things was Steve Gallegos, who prepared a special, pork-based dish marinated in red chile and handed out samples to people waiting in line outside their booth.

Gallegos said matanzas have been a tradition since childhood. “The drinking and eating” are his favorite parts of it, he said with a laugh.

“We used to have them in Los Lunas by the river when we were little,” Gallegos said. “Everyone would drink a bunch of beers, there were boxing matches – everything. I remember those days.”

Gallegos said he was about 12 years old then and he has kept up the tradition ever since.

Within a few hours, the crew went through half of the pig. After a short break munching on chicharrones, drinking beer and talking with friends and family, they were back at it.

All it took was a nod from one of their groupmates before all hands were on deck. They carried the last half of the pig to the butchering table. Knives were sharpened as one of the groupmates laid out the gameplan: “Breakdown the chicharrones, flip it, then put it on its belly.”

Strips of flesh were sliced as though it were butter. The group then got to work separating the fat and the lean meat with quick precision.

The smell of burning firewood mingled with the aroma of carne adovada as guests looked for places to eat. Among them were Ernest Barela and Anna Chavez, both from Albuquerque, partaking of pork and red chile with golden sopaipillas.

“All of these are local people – vendors – and they make all their food from scratch,” Chavez said. “You just don’t get food like this anywhere.”

Rita Garcia, an officer with the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County, estimated 10,000 people showed up to Saturday’s matanza. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)
Home » News » New Mexico News » Chicharrones galore!

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
‘Weak mayor’ proposal sets up possible 10-member City Council
ABQnews Seeker
Councilors deferred until June 21 a ... Councilors deferred until June 21 a proposal that would reshape Albuquerque's government
Camp in session: UNM basketball players get experience coaching ...
ABQnews Seeker
Monday, at the Pit, 75 3rd ... Monday, at the Pit, 75 3rd through 7th graders were wide eyed and excited to be learning from their favorite Lobo basketball stars.
Can rivalry games be saved? UNM, NMSU swap facility ...
ABQnews Seeker
Amid a rare offseason flare-up of ... Amid a rare offseason flare-up of rivalry drama, UNM and NMSU on Monday made progress toward getting their hoops rivalry going again.
Pipeline from this surprising school produces more transfers to ...
ABQnews Seeker
This week, two new transfer announcements ... This week, two new transfer announcements in as many days amounted to (unofficially) two new Lobos in former Alabama State running back Jacory Merritt ...
Thousands of households will have to pay more for ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Bernalillo County Solid Waste Program ... The Bernalillo County Solid Waste Program is implementing a 6% rate increase for trash and recycling for residents in the unincorporated areas of the ...
New Mexico United bumps up assistant to take over ...
ABQnews Seeker
Masaki "Mac" Hemmi, New Mexico United's ... Masaki "Mac" Hemmi, New Mexico United's first assistant coach, ran Monday's training session and will coach the team for Saturday's match at Tampa Bay ...
State agency extends contracts for Medicaid providers amid uncertainty ...
ABQnews Seeker
The move by the New Mexico ... The move by the New Mexico Human Services Department to extend the existing contracts through June 2024 - instead of the end of this ...
FBI biker gang expert warns of more violence in ...
ABQnews Seeker
The biker gang expert's testimony came ... The biker gang expert's testimony came during a pretrial detention hearing for one of two alleged Bandidos arrested after the Red River shootings. After ...
Body camera footage shows short foot chase before police ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police on Monday released on-body ... Albuquerque police on Monday released on-body camera footage and additional information about a May 10 shooting.