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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Giving their souls away

    Michaela Kane
    Michaela Kane / The Daily Wildcat Paul Pratt dresses up for the Dia de los Muertos parade in downtown Tucson on Sunday, Nov. 3. Pratt, like many others in the parade, was marching with photographs of deceased loved ones.

    With strips of gold-and silver-tinged paper in hand, more than 80,000 people walked along the All Souls Procession route Sunday evening, leaving carefully inscribed notes in the care of an urn, to be burned and sent to the souls of loved ones lost.

    Lighting up Sixth Avenue, the urn commanded the procession and wove through the crowds and floats that filled downtown. It served as a collection of thoughts and memories acquired from attendees throughout the night’s events, consisting of hand written-notes, photos, mementos, figurines and other objects.

    Loosely taking root in the Mexican tradition of Día de Los Muertos, the All Souls Procession returned for its 24th and biggest year yet, said Urn Ambassador Rachel Alter. It began as a small ceremony on Fourth Avenue to honor the passing of Susan Kay Johnson’s father and has since grown into one of the biggest processions in the Southwest, reaching people of all ages and cultures through the commonality of loss.

    “I just think that the emotions of love and loss and gratitude are all collective and we come together as a community to amplify each other’s gratitude and relieve each other’s sorrow as we take on those emotions collectively,” Alter said.

    The crowd moved as one through the procession, following the steady beat of drums behind the urn, while attendees joined the back of the procession as it passed. Many held hands, holding signs or figures with various names and wishes scrawled across the front and back.

    “We definitely have our own people we’re walking for today,” said participant Colleen Mahorney. “It’s awesome because usually when people die, it’s like a funeral and a lot of sadness, and I like this because it’s more of a celebration of life.”

    Pouring in by thousands, participants were celebrating anything from lost relatives, pets and friends to relationship transitions. Many had created photo mobiles and floats to remember those that they’ve lost and marched them through the downtown streets. Several participants joined in to amplify the event and partake in a growing local tradition.

    Family studies and human development graduate student Diana Meter attended the procession to show her family and friends a piece of Tucson tradition.

    “It represents Tucson culture so well and it’s a great way to show people what it’s all about,” Meter said. “I love the fact that so many people can come out and be together in a public place at the same time.”

    Attendees were invited to watch or walk in the procession and many painted their faces with decorative skull patterns as a symbol to honor the dead. Others added photographs and mementos to their clothing to display their loved ones as they marched. Procession participant Taryn Gibson marched with a photo of her grandfather attached to her dress as a way to celebrate his life and bond with her family.

    The procession continued through downtown as the crowd, extending for miles, followed the urn to the procession’s finale where it was lit on fire, releasing the messages to all lost souls.

    Although some were there to remember loved ones who had recently passed, others said they were there to maintain an age-old celebration.

    “It’s a big way to celebrate our heritage,” Gibson said. “I think it’s important for us to keep the traditions alive and it’s a way to keep the memories of our loved ones around.”

    Follow Jessica Schrecker @JKSchrecker

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