Spotlight on Matanzas

Today I have been at the matanzas fair in Sineu. It’s a fair that celebrates an old rural tradition, which is still followed in many places, in which the pig plays the star role.

Mallorcan Black Pig

It’s a while since we’ve had a Spotlight Sunday post but I thought it appropriate to shed some light on this important Spanish ritual.

First of all, matanzas means slaughter. So I can assure you right now that this is not a post for the squeamish. The matanzas rituals are performed all over rural Spain, and as you may know, the pig is a very important part of our diet here.

Every region has its variation of matanzas and in different places it is performed at different times of the year, normally in Spring time. We will focus on the matanzas ritual in Mallorca, and more significantly in the town of Sineu where they have the huge celebration that I have been to this morning. Here the matanzas are performed in winter.

If you want to know more about the fair in Sineu itself, read the post I wrote last year when I went to the same fair: Sineu Slaughter.

The people of Sineu might seem a little barbaric to you when you know what happens to the pig, but they are actually fun-loving people with deep roots in tradition. They are taught to appreciate the animal for the nourishment it will provide them and that they mustn’t waste any part of it.

Traditional Matanzas

Traditionally, when the farmer kills his prized pig (in Mallorca, normally his best porc negre) which he has fattened up over months, he and a team of experienced helpers – be it friends, other farmers or employees – set about their work very early in the morning.

From the moment (and even during the days leading up to it) the work starts, the fiesta, or celebration, is underway. Normally, the team of workers shares a big breakfast long before dawn, accompanied by strong liqueurs or spirits – and the drinking generally continues as the day goes on.

Feria de matanzas Sineu 2012 Feria de matanzas Sineu 2012

As soon as they start to slaughter the pig, everything has to move very fast and work has to be efficient. There is normally another team – traditionally the wives of the slaughter team – who deal with the different parts of the pig, already preserving them and preparing them so that nothing is wasted.

The first part of the matanzas is the most gruesome and the least humane part, which is the draining of the blood while the animal is still alive: the huge pig is dragged and wrestled to the slaughter table by several of the men and is restrained with ropes.

The butcher – normally the one of the group who has the most experience, or a professional butcher – inserts his knife in the pig’s neck in one of the main arteries and the blood that gushes out is caught by the women in buckets to make morcilla and butifarron (black pudding and blood sausage).

The blood has to drain quickly and has to be stirred continually to prevent clots. During this time the screeches of agony made by the distressed animal are said to be heard for miles around until it finally dies from blood loss.

Then the hair of the pig has to be burned and scraped off so that the skin can be used too. Often they pour boiling water over the pig to assist with this like in this video I found by EcoturMallorca:

Finally the pig is opened and chopped up into useable pieces. As I said before, not a scrap is wasted. Even the intestines and stomach have their contents emptied and then used.

The trotters and head are cut off, the loins are reserved and the ribs kept whole. The legs make hams and the insides are used for different types of sausages or embutidos. Many parts are salted and cured for preservation.

Matanzas in Sineu

Of course, at the fair in Sineu, you do not see this whole gruesome process. But it’s real enough and very graphic.

There are people dressed in traditional dress at large work stations near the main square taking part in the fair. They do the work in the traditional way right in front of the spectators:

At about 10am the large pig – already dead and with the blood drained and hair removed – is brought to the slaughter table set out especially for the fair and the butcher proceeds to quarter the pig, skin it and carve it up, passing each limb or piece to another butcher who carries it across to one of the work stations for the waiting men and women to already start the demonstration of how to preserve it.

When the whole pig is carved up, all the different pieces are laid out on a long table and the team is hard at work making different cuts just like you would see in a butcher’s shop. Ever eaten pork fillet? Well the ones on this table looked just the same as the ones I buy in my local supermarket.

Feria de matanzas Sineu 2012

Cleaning the intestines – Feria de Matanzas, Sineu

There are two women who get the short straw and they have to deal with the cleaning of the stomach and intestines, being very careful not to tear them, as they are then used for casing to contain sausage meat or sobrassada.

Sineu Celebrations

Apart from the usual stalls and events such as local dancing at the fair, the people of Sineu celebrate the matanzas by eating two particular dishes elaborated from the recently slaughtered pig:


Feria de matanzas Sineu 2012

Sobrassada at Sineu Feria de Matanzas

Almost as soon as the slaughter is finished, the sobrassada is ready. Sobrassada is that bright orange meat that is typical to Mallorca and is rarely found in the rest of Spain. It is made from minced pork and paprika. Wikipedia has a nice description of the elaboration of sobrassada that is worth reading.

The sobrassada is still steaming from having just been made and is spread thickly on bread and served with a glass of wine. At the fair, people queue up to get their helping of steaming fresh sobrassada.

Frito de Matanzas

Frito Mallorquin

Frito de Matanzas at Sineu Feria de Matanzas

Most of the bars in Sineu serve frito mallorquin anyway – in fact they are famous for it. But on the day of the fair, the bars serve frito de matanzas. This is very similar to frito mallorquin, but a little different: frito mallorquin consists of offal – mostly liver – and potatoes, red pepper, fennel and whole garlic cloves.

Frito de matanzas includes all the same ingredients but there is much less offal and this is exchanged for pieces of pork, which, traditionally are those odd off-cuts that are left over during the matanzas.

Personally I like frito mallorquin most but if you aren’t keen on liver then you will probably prefer the frito de matanzas.

How about you? Have you had frito de matanzas before? Which do you prefer? Or maybe you’re more into sobrassada? Have you ever attended a slaughter? Or maybe you know some other dramatic food ritual?

Want to discover more about Mallorca’s rich gastronomy? Well you are in luck because not long ago Mallorca Gastronomy was our theme for Destination of the Month. Discover Mallorca’s other delicacies such as snails, potatoes, or lechona (suckling pig). Or get an overview on Mallorcan gastronomy.


I would like to remind you that all the photos used on are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

Filed Under: fairs in mallorcafeaturedfood and drinkLocal Fairsmallorcamallorca gastronomySineuspainSpotlightWhere I Am Right Now


About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. susan sykes says:

    It does sound a bit gruesome, I don’t think they are allowed to slaughter the pigs in England like that any more, they of course would have done at one time. I too like frito mallorquian but I am not a fan of sobrassado, I don’t actually like the look of it. Next time i eat pork in Mallorca i will think about the ritual of the slaughter, or manybe not I might not want to eat it….

  2. […] Spotlight on Matanzas – It’s important to know where you food comes from and Lisa from In My Shoes Travel […]

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