If you haven't been part of Tucson's most original event, make this the year that you march in the All Souls Procession.
November 2 is the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Bearing no resemblance to Halloween, this is a day when Mexicans clean and decorate the graves of their beloved departed, and take picnic lunches and maybe some alcohol to share with the deceased in the graveyard. It's a time to keep the deceased close to us and remind them and ourselves of what they mean to us.
This Sunday, November 4, in keeping with the spirit of Dia de los Muertos, thousands of Tucsonans will dress up as skeletons or other dead beings, carry giant puppets or ride on fabulous human-powered floats, and parade down Fourth Avenue to the railroad docks on Toole. Many people carry percussion instruments, and there will be at least a few bands. It is a stunning spectacle, and the best part is this: anyone can and should participate.
All Souls Procession is a creative way to celebrate the lives of dear ones who have passed over to the other side. While the event is a celebration, it is respectful, touching and family-friendly. Participants and spectators are not rowdy. Well, they will hoot and howl as they go through the underpass on 6th Avenue, but who can resist that? But this is not a lewd or drunken Mardi Gras. It's a time to honor and remember friends, family, pets, even border crossers and war victims who have left this world. You absolutely can not miss it.
Find a place on the sidewalk along Fourth Avenue between University Boulevard and 7th Street before 6 PM, watch the procession, and then follow the last marcher. Wear a costume, take pictures, play a percussion instrument, carry a photo of a loved one. The procession will wind through downtown and end at the railroad docks southwest of Toole and Stone. Then you must stay for a performance by Flan Chen. This dance troupe will have giant creatures on stilts wearing big papier mache heads. A percussion band keeps the beat as the dancers sling fire torches and buckets. One of them will do scary flips and spins while suspended from enormous helium ballons.
After Flan Chen, a crane will hoist a huge cloth and metal urn high above the crowd. The urn will contain handwritten messages and prayers from the audience and will be ceremonially burned. You can contribute a message of remembrance or grief, or state what you wish to embrace or release, then watch the sparks of your prayer ascend into the night sky.