• July 20th, 2024
  • Saturday, 05:52:11 AM

Aztec Community Mourning Loss of Mexica Dance Icon Raul Chávez Portillo

Photo: Courtesy Renee Fajardo Raul Chávez Portillo (February 29, 1952-May 7, 2022)



The Colorado Aztec dance community is mourning the loss of renowned Mexica dance icon and curandero, Raul Chávez Portillo who died on May 7th, 2022.


Chávez was born on February 29, 1952, in Mazatlán, México 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.


In 1969, he immigrated to Colorado and in 1981, helped local Chicano youth establish their own danzante group, under his family name of Grupo Tlaloc, he remained with them for a decade. In 1992, he formed a small family dance group under the name of Huitzilopochtli.


Huitzilopochtli’s circle is currently made up of dancers from México and Colorado, along with their families, and those that have been guided to this path. Every year Grupo Huitzilopochtli donates more than 600 volunteer hours to neighborhoods, churches, food banks, and nonprofits. Chávez helped communities from Topeka Kansas to Breckenridge Colorado to MSU Denver and state-wide kick start their own Día de Los Muertos celebrations many years before the holiday was popular. He believed this holiday was a means to connect all people to their common humanity. Chávez also was a yearly participant for 25 years at the free Aurora Fox Theater Cultural Concerts series, where he made his last performance on May 4th for the Colorado Folk Arts Council.


Chávez guided Grupo Huitzilopochtli on a journey to enrich the lives of thousands of Mexican/Chicano youth and their families, as they struggled to connect to their cultural roots. Chávez always maintained an open-door policy, welcoming all who wished to join his troupe, regardless of their ancestry. He recognized the Indigenous heritage of all people and he embraced diversity while striving to instill community stewardship and tolerance.


In 2013, Chávez was the César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver, Male Leadership recipient. “To Raul as a society, we are one. Even though we are not all blood-related, we are a family. Even when you’re not a part of the group, just being near him you can feel the energy given off, that sends a strong bond through anyone who meets Raul. He fights for the peace and dignity of his community and fights to better the lives of the working people. He welcomes all to his group,” stated a young Metropolitan State University of Denver student Lisa Rosales in 2012 when writing his nomination letter.


In 2016, the Denver’s Mayors Awards for Excellence in the Arts honored Chávez’s group Huitzilopochtli with the 2016 Arts & Culture Impact Award. He was instrumental in bridging the gap between Mexican youth and Chicano/Colorado youth, demonstrating for the past 40 years how the arts can heal through cultural inclusivity and respect for one another.


Recently Chávez, after years of searching for a permanent home to practice, relocated his dance troupe to Lakewood United Methodist Church in the 40 West Arts Dist. He followed long-time partners Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, Fiesta Colorado, and the Pirate Art Gallery here to help establish a Latinx presence in the neighborhood.


He leaves behind a legacy of compassion, inclusivity, and kindness. His services will take place on Thurs. May 19th and are open to the public.


Raul Chavez Celebration of Life will be held on May 19, 2022, the services are as follows:


Latina Funeral, 3020 Federal Blvd., 9am- 2pm; Viewing 9 am-11 am; Funeral Service Mass at 11:30 am; Danzantes Tribute 12:30 pm -2 pm.


Graveside Service will be held at Crown Hill Cemetery, 2:30 pm, 7777 W. 29th Ave., Wheat Ridge, CO 80215.


A Go Fund Me has been established to help with funeral cost: Raul Chavez Memorial Fund https://gofund.me/908fa5a0.


For more information contact jtoh2016@gmail.com.


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