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Photos: Thousands walk & dance in Tucson's All Souls Procession

Streaming along the streets of Tucson, thousands walked along Bonita Avenue parallel to the Santa Cruz River on Sunday night, many in costume with their faces painted to remember lost loved ones, as part of the 2019 All Souls Procession.

Backed by thrumming music, banging drums, or the echo of bagpipes, thousands walked through the streets, many dressed in funeral finery, their faces painted to look like grinning skulls, make up that 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 30 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 El Dia De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

Since then the procession has grown by leaps and bounds. Many Mouths One Stomach, the art collective that now organizes the event, estimated that as many as 150,000 people attended last year's gathering, participating in the walk or watching it pass through the streets.

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

The procession is entirely funded by donations, and each year, the group works to raise money to put on the event, which includes dozens of volunteers, dancers, ushers, and music. The group also covers the cost of having Tucson police officers on hand to close streets and direct traffic. 

As hundreds watched, the procession wound from a few blocks south of Grande Avenue and Speedway to St. Mary's Road and curled along Bonita Avenue to Congress Street, where "Ghost Buskers" did acrobatics and collected money for the organization that puts on the annual event.

This is the second time that the procession has made its way along the river walk, after decamping from its previous route beginning at 6th Ave. and winding through Downtown. 

Walkers flowed around the Garden of Gethsemane, which was open to give people a moment of respite and prayer before heading toward the finale. 

Finally, the procession stopped at the Mercado San Agustin where a non-religious ceremony marked the end.

Backed by thrumming music, fire dancers and drummers entertained the crowd — and then a huge urn that had led the procession, filled with messages for the dead written by those in attendance, was lit aflame to cheers.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Thousands attended the Tucson's annual All Souls Procession, now marking its 30th year, on Sunday night.