THE WORLD’S LARGEST MATANZA is like a backyard barbecue—only bigger and better. “People know each other, it’s relaxed,” says Bob “Lucky” Lucero, board president at the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual event in Belén. “If you haven’t seen family or friends, you see them at the event.” The matanza (which means “slaughter” in Spanish) is a New Mexico tradition first celebrated as a way to distribute meat during the winter. Families would slaughter their hogs, cook them, and share portions with neighbors and friends. Today, the Valencia Chamber brings together a dozen community teams (or more) that compete cook-off style in categories such as liver, carne adovada, and chicharrones. Despite the frigid outdoor conditions, last year drew a record crowd of nearly 10,000 attendees who sampled dishes, voted on the winners, and enjoyed live music and community vendors. “The cold kind of goes away once you get involved,” says Lucero.

Start early. Chefs arrive around 4 a.m. to prepare the meat, get the fires started, and begin the seasoning. “As soon as the gates open, teams are ready to serve,” says Lucero. Park at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church and ride the complimentary bus to the drop-off point at the north gate.

Feel the history. “There’s a lot of ranching in our county,” he says. “It helps young people understand family and community building. It’s passed on from generation to generation.”

Feed the need. Proceeds benefit higher education scholarships for Valencia County students. Last year, the chamber handed out $90,000 in aid to 104 students. “It’s amazing to see hope on the students’ faces,” Lucero says.

World’s Largest Matanza
January 27, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
Eagle Park, 305 Eagle Lane, Belén

Party at Mardi Gras in the Mountains. Photograph courtesy of the Town of Red River.

The Aunties: Women of the White Shell Water Place
January 24

Directed by Kendra Potter, this multimedia storytelling experience at the Lensic Performing Arts Center delves into the lives of three Indigenous women from northern New Mexico.

Mardi Gras in the Mountains
February 8-13
Seize six days of lively fun in Red River, including two parades, live music, and a Fat Tuesday Ball.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
February 9-25

No Strings Theatre Company performs the Joe DiPietro play that examines love, relationships, and all the messy things that come with them at the Black Box Theatre in Las Cruces. 

Get sweet on Chocolate Fantasia. Photograph courtesy of Chocolate Fantasia.

Chocolate Fantasia
February 10

Hosted by the Mimbres Region Arts Council, this Silver City festival includes a showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a costume contest, and samples of chocolate confections from throughout the state.

Gathering of Quilts
February 23 & 24

Practiced for generations, the folk art takes center stage at the Truth or Consequences Civic Center with more than 100 beautiful historic and modern examples on display as well as demonstrations, appraisals, and quilting vendors.

Toast to Winterbrew at the Santa Fe Railyard. Photograph courtesy of Winterbrew.

That’s not all January and February have in store! Go to for more.