Breaking news: USDA gives green light for matanza

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It’s good news and bad news for the annual Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce matanza.

The good news is the matanza is back on and will see a 12th year. The bad news is there’s a scheduling conflict at the matanza’s usual location.

After a teleconference with Alfred Almanza, the administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, the chamber’s president, Yvonne Sanchez, announced that the annual matanza has been given the green light from the USDA’s “top guy.”

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

On Dec. 26, Sanchez announced that after much consideration, chamber’s board members voted to cancel the matanza. She said the decision was ultimately made due to an ongoing dispute over regulations imposed by the USDA.

Sanchez said the USDA made the determination that the pork used at the matanza had to be butchered and packaged at a department-certified facility. The requirement for USDA certified pork seems to be triggered by the fact that there is an admission fee to the event, she said.

Chamber board member Edward Calabaza said during the conversation with Almanza on Thursday, the administrator chocked 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.

While Sanchez and the chamber asked for written documentation that the event had the USDA’s blessing, Calabaza said Almanza declined to do so.

“It all comes down to a liability issue,” he 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.”

Sanchez said, at least for this year, the matanza will continue as it always has.

“Mr. Almanza has committed to coming down here after the matanza and working with us to ensure that we don’t have issues in the future,” she said. “We are going to stay true to our traditions. I can’t stress that enough.”

In 2000, the chamber began hosting its matanza at the Sheriff’s Posse in Belen. The event has traditionally been held on the last Saturday of January. This year’s matanza was scheduled for Jan. 28.

But at this time, 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 unfortunately, the Casper Baca’s Rough Stock Series 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.”

For the complete story, read Saturday’s edition of the News-Bulletin.

 


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.