all souls procession

This is my second time at the All Souls Procession in Tucson. It is based on the traditional Mexican Día de los Muertos processions, and honors the spirits of those who have passed away. It has been put on every year since 1990, and is one of the largest in the US (at least, that's what I've been told. I can't find any sources that support that). There were 20,000 people at the one last year.

I first went to it two years ago. We took Joley and just watched the parade go by, our faces unpainted. I took some awesome photographs, and loved the entire experience. Because J was so young, though, we didn't say around for the finale.

Last year, I was so busy we completely forgot about it. This time, I was determined to go and see the entire thing.

I thought that especially my out-of-Tucson readers might enjoy a bit of a montage and explanation, so that's what you're getting.

Preparations. I decided to go with a more realistic depiction because those have been my favorite ones in the past; plus, the lack of hair made doing a full skull too cool of an idea to resist.

It was a bitch and a half to try and do the back by myself, though (and an unanticipated problem when I dreamed the thing up).

These are good examples of how artistic and colorful other people's renditions can get.

Something about the attitude of this woman I loved. She walked behind us for quite awhile.

Kites in honor of the 116 transgender deaths this past year (presumably to violence).

She had a little maraca that looked like a skull.

So beautiful.

This girl was so gorgeous, standing on the railing on the side of the tunnel and leaning against the pillar. She'll be my inspiration next year for a more artistic rendering of the skull face paint.

My friend Diana, who we were walking with, told me that going through the underpass was always her favorite part. I didn't understand why when she said it, but she was totally right - something about being able to hear everything, and the intimacy of it, was really cool. You could also, when standing on either end, see the mass of people before or behind because of the curve of the road; even though it was just a fraction of the procession, it seemed like an immense number of people.

I had a couple clearer pictures of the crowd, but I really like the blurry ones - it makes the figures look so much less human.

The moon as seen while emerging from the underpass. It was obligingly half-hidden by clouds the whole night.


Cowgirl dead.

I love this picture. There were two little girls, and I had to run to catch up to them to even get this shot - and they were even more ethereal from the front.

You'll notice that there are no ropes, no police to keep the crowd on the edge of the route from merging with those walking. It's an incredibly peaceful event; I didn't see anyone acting raucous or disrespectful, and there was something significant about the unpainted alive merging with the mass of walking dead.


A giant silk puppet. The simple skeleton ones are my favorite.

The dancing dead.

A Joley skeleton and a Mommy skeleton, at the finale, before I realized that I wasn't strong enough to hold her on my shoulders until something decided to happen.

I held her on my hips for nearly the entire finale once it started, though. It took place in a giant dirt field at the end of the parade route, and there were thousands of people there.

The urn. It had a metal frame and what appeared to be semi-sheer fabric sides; people put prayers and things they wanted to let go of into the urn. Before the performance started, when the crowd was waiting for things to get set up, someone got on the mic and asked that if anyone had anything else to add, if people would please pass the prayers forward through the crowd.

I loved that.

Beneath the urn is a Mariachi group from a local middle school, and stilt walkers with torches.

I don't know how this shot came out so perfectly.

There were three women (I believe) on that ladder + silks apparatus, being swung back and forth by the crane about 100 feet in the air (or at least, that's my imprecise guess). Shortly after this shot, one of them climbed down onto the silks and started doing those impressive drops they do. The other two were on the circle just above the silks, balancing her out.

Prior to this, the urn was unlit. You can just barely make the dancer out halfway down the silks in this shot; it appeared that she dropped something down into the urn to make the whole thing catch fire.

After the urn ignited, there was a ton of incensed smoke. Down at the bottom are the stilt walkers, who were dressed in bird costumes (they were Joley's favorite part).

The beginning of the long walk back: Amanda in the Tunnel of Questionable Enlightenment.

This wasn't the angle I wanted, but people kept walking between us.

A very sleepy bitsy on the way home. The flowers were given to her by a man standing behind us in the crowd at the finale. She was a pretty good sport - she walked almost the entire length of the two-mile parade route on the way back before Diana picked her up.

I love the halos on the people in the background.

It was an incredibly good experience. The energy in the air, although there was something strange and otherworldly about it, was positive. This parade is one of the reasons I am going to really miss Tucson, if I ever get around to leaving.


  1. Why would you ever leave Tucson :(?

    Beautiful pics, btw. I'm so happy I ran into you there and could check out your make-up in person. Impressive! And yeah, how could you pass up the chance to do the full skull?! Great job. I learned a lot with my make-up this year; can't wait to put the lessons into use next year! ~Shannon

  2. Very dramatic. Love all of this! Especially your drawn teeth.

  3. The girl carrying the basket in the 5th picture is my friend Valerie. She organizes the procession of angels at TCM. She is a Day of the Dead queen!


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