Tucson’s homegrown All Souls Procession hearkens to the Day of the Dead — with a life all its own
It started with a tight-knit group of locals in 1990. And today, Tucson’s All Souls Procession has grown to a groundswell of 150,000 people who march in — or watch — one of the county’s largest processions honoring the deceased.
Often mistaken as a Dia de los Muertos celebration, Tucson’s All Souls Procession is distinct in more ways than this year’s Nov. 6 date on the calendar, which is several days after this year’s traditional Day of the Dead. Part outdoor sanctuary, part healing remembrance for those honoring and grieving loved ones and part gallery studded with elaborate floats, performance artists, and fantastic costumes, the procession’s heartbeat is unique to Tucson and the artists who gave it life 26 years ago.
To be sure, the timing is inspired by the many cultures that see this time of year as the time when the “veil” between our world and the spirit world is thinnest — when some believe the dead are closest to us. But the procession is more about honoring and celebrating the dead in whatever ways feel authentic to all participants, no matter what cultures, countries, or traditions they embrace. Some build altars along the procession route. Some join in the procession wearing elaborate costumes or carrying towering papier mâché puppets. Others place messages, wishes, or mementos in the massive steel urn that is pulled in front of the procession and ceremonially burned at the finale. What binds it all together is a belief in the power of simple creative acts to help people grieve.
Know before you go
All Souls Procession expects 150,000 people along its 2-mile route, which begins at 6th Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Tucson. Participants will begin gathering at 4 p.m. and the procession begins at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6. It culminates with the ritual burning of the urn at the finale ceremony near Mercado San Agustin at Linda Avenue and Congress Street. It is a procession, not a parade, meaning everyone is welcome to become part of the event rather than simply spectating.
Visit allsoulsprocession.org for more information, including a map of the route, tips on where to park and what to bring, how to get messages into the urn, and — if you’re a local — how to participate in a full calendar of dance and craft workshops leading up to this year’s procession.