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Valencia County Matanza Is Back On

Valencia County Matanza Is Back On -USDA '˜top guy' gives annual event a pass, chamber official says

By Julia Dendinger, Valencia County News-Bulletin

BELEN - What organizers call the world's largest matanza is back on track in Valencia County.

But when and where is still up in the air.

This year's Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce matanza, which has drawn thousands each year for 11 years, has been given the green light by the USDA's "top guy," the chamber's president, Yvonne Sanchez, announced.

She made the announcement after a teleconference with Alfred Almanza, the administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service.

"In his words, he was giving us a pass," Sanchez said.

On Dec. 26, Sanchez announced that after much consideration, the chamber's board members voted to cancel the matanza because of an ongoing dispute over USDA regulations.

Sanchez said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had determined that the pork used at the matanza must be butchered and packaged at a department-certified facility - a request she says relegates the long-standing tradition to nothing more than a backyard barbecue.

Chamber board member Edward Calabaza said that during the conversation with Almanza on Thursday, Almanza chalked up the incident to "miscommunication and misinterpretation."

"Given that agency's size and bureaucracy, he alluded that going down a chain of command this long, things get misinterpreted," Calabaza said.

"It all comes down to a liability issue," Calabaza said. "There is nothing in writing, but Mr. Almanza said he was using his regulatory discretion in terms of allowing us to proceed. He did guarantee that the USDA would not show up. There will be no red tags or fines."

The chamber began hosting its matanza at the Sheriff's Posse in Belen in 2000. The event has traditionally been held on the last Saturday of January. This year's matanza was scheduled for Jan. 28, but Sanchez said the chamber doesn't feel it can get the matanza back on track in just three short weeks.

The chamber had hoped to push the event back to February, but the Casper Baca's Rough Stock Series rodeo is scheduled at the Sheriff's Posse every Saturday in February and early March.

Sanchez is hopeful that they can work out a compromise with Baca to have the event there.

"But we are looking for other locations," she said. "We will have a location for the matanza."

The chamber promotes the annual matanza not only as a way to preserve a way of life, but also to give local students a better education. All proceeds from the event go to fund college scholarships for local traditional and nontraditional students. To date, more than 200 students have shared in about $115,000 in scholarship funds.

Publication:Jnl Final Edition 8/2005-today; Date:Jan 6, 2012; Section:Front Page; Page Number:A1

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