Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka will use the funds to hold a Día de los Muertos event on Nov. 2 in Beaverton or Portland.
Beaverton resident Jonathan Martinez’s Aztec dance group Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka was one of 15 traditional performers or groups to receive a $5,000 award through the state’s Traditional Arts Recovery Program.
The program, which is a partnership between the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Folklife Network, supports those who use art to represent “ethnic, sacred, professional, Native American, tribal, and regional cultural arts.” Grants were awarded for the creation of new works.
Martinez’s group will use the funds to hold a public event for Día de los Muertos on November 2.
He doesn’t yet know where he will host the event, Martinez said, but it will likely be in Portland, Beaverton or somewhere in between. The group varies, but currently has around 15-20 dancers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds who practice Fridays in Portland and Wednesdays in Beaverton.
The event will be a community celebration, Martinez said. Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka usually performs in schools and for the public – or organizes dance circles for people to try Aztec dancing for themselves. Martinez said everyone will be invited to the free event, even people who don’t think dancing is for them.
“Everyone is born with a rhythm,” he said. “Once you hear the drums – any type of drumming – you kind of start moving your leg or tapping your foot a little bit. And that’s because we all have that deep drumbeat in there. inside of us, which is our heart.”
Aztec dance, or Danza Azteca, is a cultural movement, Martinez said, and Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka’s goal is to expose the community to Aztec traditions and culture.
There are connections between Aztec traditions and other traditions, history and even Native American foods, Martinez said.
According to a statement from the dance group, Danza Azteca “provides space for the descendants of indigenous peoples to find, embrace and strengthen our cultural identity.”
Martinez said the name Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka is in the Nahuatl language. Mitotiliztli means celebrating, gathering and dancing, and Tezkatlipoka is a deity from the Aztec religion – which is often misrepresented in American pop culture. Together, the two words mean “dancing with awareness”, he said, as well as trying to be aware even in our daily lives.
Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka regularly hosts Día de los Muertos events around Portland, Martinez said, and the group is thrilled the celebrations just keep getting bigger. This year, Martinez will invite other vendors who sell handmade art or crafts and even other artists.
“We like to open up this space to anyone, anyone who wants to come in and show off their talents and stuff like that,” he said. “But we also have the ceremonial part, which is when the Aztec dancers come on stage.”
Martinez said he was trying to find indoor space to host the event and planned to use the $5,000 grant to rent the space and give back to the community. If the artists come, Martinez said he would like them to be paid.
“It’s an event for the community,” Martinez said. “The cool thing is it’s made by the community and it’s for the community.”
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