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Photos: All Souls Procession 2016

Tens of thousands of Tucsonans filled the streets Downtown on Sunday night to mark the annual All Souls Procession, remembering loved ones who have died.

Under the Sixth Avenue underpass, the sound of cowbells being smashed in unison by a group of drummers has the same heart-rattling quake of an accelerating train. Then come the mariachis matched with dancers, whose whirling skirts brush the sides of the concrete underpass, followed by thousands more people, many dressed in their funeral finery and faces painted to look like grinning skulls.

The make up follows the design of La Calavera Catrina, or "dapper skull," an imagery of death originally based on a zinc etching by a Mexican printmaker and illustrator made in 1913.

A Tucson tradition for 27 years, the procession began when artist Susan K. Johnson started the ceremonial walk to remember her late father. The event is a mixture of customs, including many aspects of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

Since then the procession has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, Many Mouths One Stomach, the art collective that organizes the event, estimated that as many as 100,000 people attended attend the gathering, participating in the walk or watching it pass through the streets. 

Each year, participants may carry signs, photos, or other items of special significance marking the lives of those who have died. 

After the procession wound through Downtown from Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street to the Mercado San Augustin on the West Side, a non-religious ceremony marked the end. 

Backed by thrumming music, fire dancers and drummers entertained the crowd — and then the urn, filled with messages for the dead written by those in attendance — was lit aflame.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A stilt-walker stands near a fire at the end of the All Souls Procession.