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Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka will use the funds to host a Día de los Muertos event Nov. 2 in Beaverton or Portland.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON ARTS COMMISSION - Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka is founded and led by Beaverton resident Jonathan Martinez.

Beaverton resident Jonathan Martinez's Aztec dance group, Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka, was one of 15 traditional artists 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 Oregon's "ethnic, sacred, occupational, Native American, tribal and regional cultural arts." The grants were awarded for the creation of new works.

Martinez's group will use the funds to host a public event for Día de los Muertos on Nov. 2.

He isn't sure where he'll host the event yet, Martinez said, but it'll likely be in Portland, Beaverton or somewhere in between. The group varies, but it currently has about 15 to 20 dancers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds who practice on Fridays in Portland and Wednesdays in Beaverton.

The event will be a community celebration, Martinez said. Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka usually performs at schools and for the public — or hosts dance circles for people to try Aztec dance themselves. Martinez said everyone will be invited to the free event, even people who don't think dancing is for them.

"Everybody's born with a beat," he said. "Once you hear the drums — any type of drum — you kind of start moving your leg or stomping a little bit. And that's because we all have that deep drumbeat inside of us, which is our heart."

Aztec dance, or Danza Azteca, is a cultural movement, Martinez said, and Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka's purpose is to expose the community to Aztec traditions and culture.

There are connections between Aztec and other Native American traditions, history and even foods, Martinez said.

According to a statement from the dance group, Danza Azteca "provides the descendants of native peoples the space to find, adopt and strengthen our cultural identity."

Martinez said the name Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka is in the Nahuatl language. Mitotiliztli means to celebrate, gather and dance, and Tezkatlipoka is a deity in the Aztec religion — who is often misrepresented in U.S. pop culture. Together, the two words mean "dancing with a consciousness," he said, as well as trying to be conscious even in our everyday lives.

Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka regularly hosts Día de los Muertos events around Portland, Martinez said, and the group is excited that the celebrations keep getting bigger. This year, Martinez will invite other vendors who sell handmade art or crafts and even other performers.

"We like to open up that space for anybody, anybody who wants to come in and show what talents they have and stuff like that," he said. "But then we also have the ceremonial part of it, which is when the Aztec dancers come in."

Martinez said he's trying to find an indoor space to host the event, and he plans to use the $5,000 grant to rent the space and give back to the community. If performers come, Martinez said he would like them to get 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."

COURTESY: JONATHAN MARTINEZ - Mitotiliztli Tezkatlipoka is a Beaverton- and Portland-based Aztec dance group that performs at schools and public events.


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