By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
Their was a lot of sadness in their eyes today. A lot of deep real sadness. Still the Danzantes preserved on. One by one they made their way into the Funeral Latina building at 33 and Federal in North Denver. They filled every pew, hallway, accessory space while others waited outside for an hour to honor and pay homage in their own personal ways to the man who had been their teacher, mentor, friend and the root of their cultural inspiration. (see photo gallery below)
Their were some smiles but they were hard to come by on this very solemn day. I don’t believe Denver has seen has seen a memorial service quite like this one.
They came from various Danza groups throughout the U.S. and Mexico to pay homage and respect. Along with family, friends and students through the sorrow they danced, drummed, played cuerno de conchas (shell horns) and flutes. Many carried copalero’s (Amerindian incense burners) others flowers as as they approached the casket of Raul Chavez Portillo, regarded as “El Capitan of Azteca Danzante”
A memorial letter put out the Huitzilopochtli Danza group stated: Chavez was born on 02/29/1952 in Mazatlan Mexico into a family of Mexica Aztec danzantes and healers. He was given the name of Tlaloc at the age of five by his grandfather, in order to preserve the traditions of his ancestors.
He spent his formative years studying and perfecting his knowledge and skills. He immigrated to Colorado in 1969 as was instrumental in helping local Chicano youth establish their own danzante group in the 1980’s under his family name Tlalloc.
Currently his family group Huitzilopochtli has been growing strong over the past 30 years. Made up of families from Mexico and Colorado, the multi faceted grupo promotes diversity and inclusion, just as Chavez did during his life time. Debora Montoya director of Danza Colorsaztlan, who danced with Chavez for several decades said, “ Raul carried the memory of Cuahtemoctzin to save and keep our traditions until our sun would rise again.
Raul carried the memory of the Tezcatlipoca, our scholars, our priests, our scientists and mathematicians who left instruction in accordance with Cuahtemoc and they placed our sacred things, customs and rituals and our cultural existence in the hands of the Conchero. And our Sun did rise again and all things having been preserved.
Raul brought forth all that had been saved back to the original tradition and rebirth of the Danza Mexica, the Aztec warrior, who now are charged with protecting and maintaining these same traditions as well as share them.
We have our memories in tact, our traditions in tact because of this 530 year continuum that Raul, in our time, brought to fruition here in the Denver community Raul carried a lineage, generations old. He carried a Capitania from his own ancestors, grandparents and elders in Mexico.
Chicanos do not carry the tradition of Capitania. He carried this solely and all of us stand on his shoulders. Tlazocamati Compadre, tlazocamati brother! May we each carry this palabra with the grace, love, humility and kindness that you showed to us!” He leaves behind a legacy of compassion, inclusivity and kindness.