A tradition worth saving

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For more than a decade, the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce has organized its annual matanza that has drawn tens of thousands of people eager to eat delicious food and donate to a good cause.
The matanza, which has been a great asset not only to the community, but to our culture, has been canceled. The decision to call off the annual fundraiser was not an easy one for the chamber’s board. But we understand why it had to be done.
Because of an ongoing dispute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over regulations, the chamber is not willing to jeopardize the event, the teams who compete and members of the community who attend the matanza every year.
According to the chamber’s board, if the matanza was to be held, the USDA would have penalized the participants and the chamber for what the federal agency claims to be a violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The USDA says if participants used packaged meat or used a USDA certified facility to slaughter the pigs, it would allow the matanza to go on.
We, and probably the majority of our readers, are very disappointed that the matanza has been canceled. But we are more frustrated that the USDA doesn’t understand what they are doing is more than shutting down an event that they believe to be a violation of the federal act.
It’s actually eliminating a tradition that we here in Valencia County, in New Mexico, have been doing for hundreds of years. Matanzas are part of our culture, our heritage.
While the chamber has done almost everything it can do to make sure that the matanza isn’t lost to future generations, we all now must do what we can to help them keep our tradition alive. We encourage everyone — from our local, state and national elected officials to the regular, everyday chicharone connoisseur — to stand up for what’s right and demand the USDA back off.
Write letters, make telephone calls and tell the federal government that the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce’s annual matanza, and others like it, should be exempt from the act, and should be allowed. Let them know that it’s an important part of our culture and that using packaged meat or slaughtering a pig somewhere else is not a matanza — it’s just a barbecue!
Beginning in 2000, the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce has used the matanza as a fundraising event for college scholarships. Hundreds of people have been fortunate to have received and used these scholarships to further their education.
It would be a shame if our local students couldn’t benefit from the generosity of the chamber and community, but it would be a bigger shame if our traditions and culture is regulated by federal bureaucrats.