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Market returns on Aug. 13 with international food, goods, performances

PHOTO FOR THE TIMES: ZACH KRAHMER - Chinese and Taiwanese members of the Formosa Association of Student Cultural Ambassadors perform a YoYo toss demonstration at Beaverton Night Market.For the second straight year, the Beaverton Night Market brought the world to The Round.

Around 8,000 people gathered at the The Round on Saturday to experience a wide range of multicultural foods, goods and performances.

With cuisine from Nigeria to Greece to the Caribbean, goods ranging from chocolate-covered Middle Eastern dates to imported Indian spices, and artwork and handicrafts from China, Afghanistan and beyond, the market was a celebration of the international communities that live in and contribute to the city.

This year’s market doubled its capacity for vendors and tripled the size of its site layout, but huge crowds still packed the market throughout, waiting in line for a taste of international cuisine or gathered around the amphitheater to cheer on performers.

Performers included a Hawaiian hula dance group, an Indian classical dance performance, and headlining salsa band Dina y Los Rumberos, among others.

“The beautiful thing about this market has been the incredible diversity of the crowd that turns out to support it and we definitely saw that again this year,” said Alexis Ball, equity outreach coordinator for Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle’s office.

The market returns on Saturday, Aug. 13, with a new lineup of performers and will again be held at the The Round in Beaverton.

Grilling up Salvadoran favorites

Crowds thronged around Sonia’s Mix Grill, where owner and chef Sonia Cardenas of Beaverton flipped sizzling-hot pupusas, a signature dish of El Salvador, on a smoky griddle.

Her pupusas, made according to a family recipe that’s been passed down from her grandparents, are prepared from thick, handmade tortillas made with corn masa and stuffed with different combinations of beans, cheese and pork.

The art of cooking has been passed down for generations, too. For years, Sonia’s grandmother ran her own market and cafe in El Salvador.

When Sonia was in her 20s, she owned a little restaurant in the capital city of San Salvador. Since then, she’s spent her life feeding family and friends in the United States, where she’s lived for 27 years.

“People have always loved her food,” said Edwin Cardenas, Sonia’s son. He grew up with his mother and his mother’s sister, who often engaged in friendly household competition to impress the family with their best dishes.

“I love how my family cooked,” said Edwin Cardenas.

This month, Sonia Cardenas opened up a food truck on Southwest Walker Road, where she sells Salvadoran favorites incuding pupusas and chicken and pork tamales, as well as some Mexican-inspired dishes such as tacos and burritos.

At her food truck, she also serves a special Salvadoran drink called ensalada de fruta, or “fruit salad.” The fresh fruit juices she offers include apple, pineapple and marañon, a drink made from a cashew fruit.

Sonia Cardenas said she was excited to share a taste of her Salvadoran culture with others.

“When I cook Salvadoran food, I feel close to my country and to the many traditions that my beautiful culture has to offer,” she said.

A taste of the Himalayas

As an evening breeze settled over the market, Tibetan prayer flags waved gently above the booth where Tenzin Yeshi and her family prepared and sold momos, steamed dumplings filled with ground beef or vegetables and served with homemade sauces.

One of the most iconic dishes of Tibetan cuisine, the momos were a big hit with customers in Beaverton as well. This was the first vendor event for “Himalayan Dumplings and More” and Yeshi was sold out of momos two hours before the end of the market.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Yeshi, who makes the momos according to a family recipe.

Yeshi grew up in Nepal in a family of Tibetan refugees. She recalls childhood memories of waiting for special occasions to feast on momos.

Preparing the dumplings was a family affair, she said, as they were made completely from scratch — down to the wrappers.

“You’d get the moms, dads, uncles, aunties, all working together,” said Yeshi.

As displaced Tibetan refugees settled in neighboring Himalayan countries, such as India, Nepal and Bhutan, they brought their traditions and cuisine with them to their new homes.

Momos are now one of the most popular street foods in India, where Yeshi attended school and a sizable community of Tibetan refugees have settled.

Thus, Yeshi has brought a slight Indian influence to the momos she sells in Beaverton — the stuffings are mildly curried, with hints of spices, szechuan, peppercorn and cilantro.

Whereas other Asian dumplings are on the drier side, Tibetan beef momos are juicy and savory, said Yeshi. Her booth also offered a vegan momo option, filled with a curried potato-based stuffing.

Yeshi’s husband is Cambodian, so they’ve included a pan-Asian twist to their menu, with fish, rice and skewered beef dishes.

As Tibetans are settling as refugees both in Himalayan countries and in the West, promoting traditional cuisine has been one way to preserve cultural memory.

“For us, it’s more than just food,” said Yeshi. “It’s about keeping our culture alive.”

Hand-crafted African goods

Through sustainable products for home use, Percy Appau hopes to build towards a united Africa.

The products sold by his business, Craft54, range from hand-woven baskets and utilitarian iron works featuring Ghanian symbolism to animal and human sculptures made by Mozambican wood carvers. The shop also features a range of all-natural wooden kitchenware and furniture.

So far, the goods are hand-crafted by African artisans from six countries, in addition to some locally made works by Appau, a native of Ghana.

“I hope to bridge the gap and bring African culture to Beaverton,” said Appau.

In commissioning designs, he brings both pan-African and Western fusion elements to the pieces. Appau hopes to bring together the craftsmanship and cultural knowledge of artisans from the 54 countries of Africa.

He wants to change the perception of Africa in the West from one of destitution to one of thriving agency and creativity.

“Before colonization, African nations all worked together and traded with each other,” said Appau.

One work, created by Appau, is a mixed-media, clay-on-canvas piece that depicts a woman bursting out of a canvas.

Appau created the work to express how tough mothers are, how they remain the seat of culture.

“This is a woman-vessel of life,” he said. “From afar, you think it’s iron, but you come closer and you see she’s made of clay.”

Chinese hacky sacks and other games

At “Jasmine Giftshop,” Lucy Li shares the games and toys — as well as the memories — of her childhood. She sells everything from eight-cornered twirling handkerchiefs to traditional women’s shoes embroidered with China’s national flower.

But one of her top sellers is a Chinese hacky sack called a jianzi.

Growing up in the Guangxi region of Southern China in the 1980s and 90s, Li and her classmates didn’t have many entertainment options.

So at recess or after school, they’d pass the time by playing jianzi. They’d make their own hacky sacks, decorating them with chicken feathers or leaves.

They could play alone, or in circles with others. Players use the inside, outside or back of their foot to keep the hacky sack off the ground.

When she was a teenager, Li could reach up to 100 kicks.

“This was the main form of exercise for my generation,” said Li. “It teaches balance and concentration.”

Li has lived in the United States for six years. Through her business, she’s hoping to help struggling artisans from villages across China by giving their crafts an international audience.

She shares embroidered table runners hand-crafted in the Sanjiang village, two hours from her hometown, by elderly women with nimble fingers. Their handicrafts don’t make them a lot of money, so Li hopes to help them out by selling their works in Beaverton.

“It’s our heritage,” said Li. “We have to continue or it will disappear.”

Aztecan dance, community spirit

As dancers of all ages form a circle around the drums, they remain poised, waiting for their director, el regidor, to call out the name of the dance they will perform.

Just like the audience of over a thousand people gathered to watch them perform, the dancers are full of anticipation. Until that moment, what hangs in the air is possibility.

“When they’re up there, I tell ‘el regidor’ to call out the ‘word,’” said Johnny Martinez, who teaches the “Mitotiliztli Tezcatlipoca” Aztecan dance group. “The word is what we call the dance.”

Each dance tells a unique story. One dance the group performed told the story of a 223-year-long Aztec migration. Another told the story of an offering, evoking the four elements of earth, fire, water and air.

While the group endeavors to know their roots and honor traditional forms, they also create themes and incorporate their own vision into the dances.

“It’s important because our ancestors were creators, and in a sense everybody is a creator,” said Martinez.

The Aztecan community in the Portland area is getting stronger, said Martinez, with more people exploring their indigenous roots. “Mitotiliztli Tezcatlipoca,” which has been performing around the region for a year, meets two or three times a week to practice.

Dance is just one component of the celebration and preservation of pre-Hispanic indigenous traditions. Languages, such as Nahuatl, continue to spoken by 1.5 million people worldwide.

“We’re not quite Latino, not quite Hispanic,” said Martinez. “We’re connecting to this (indigenous) identity through dance.”

When Spanish colonization swept across the Americas, indigenous traditions and spiritual practices were often marginalized and banned.

“They tried to kill our way of life,” said Martinez. “So this is a form of resistance.”

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