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Face painting a symbol of unity at All Souls Procession

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Brianna Darling and Brianna Darling | The Daily Wildcat Rachel Smith poses for a photo with her All Soul's makeup on Sunday, Nov. 6. This style of face painting is one of the many traditions unique to All Souls Procession.

Families, friends and students gathered on Fourth Avenue for the All Souls Procession Sunday night, their faces painted in homage to loved ones lost or in the spirit of festival. The sea of painted faces and even elaborate costumes filtered through Fourth Ave. and through downtown Tucson towards the Mercado in symbolism of the living walking among the dead.

Multiple locations were set up on Fourth Avenue where patrons could donate a small fee in exchange for a skeleton/sugar skull face painting.

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Some attendees found the experience cathartic and meaningful, for others it was just another fun, unique way to get outside with friends and family.

For attendee Mario Vigil, All Souls is a significant experience that allowed him to commemorate his father.

“My father passed away back in March and so I’m here to celebrate his life,” Vigil said. “I was looking forward to Día de los Muertos since he passed away ... [The All Souls Procession] just gives me another way to celebrate him."

Vigil vibrantly painted his face as a symbolic way for him to show that he’s not mourning his father’s death, but celebrating his life.

While many attendees walked in the procession for the same reasons as Vigil, others came as support systems for their loved ones.

The procession brings the Tucson community together in such a way where everyone is welcome, as long as they’re there to be respectful and commemorative while celebrating.

Kara Kierce, a Tucson native, attended the procession for the first time Sunday night, despite having lived in Tucson her entire life.

While she didn’t come to honor any of her own loved ones, she did offer support for her boyfriend by painting her face and walking in the procession alongside him.

“It’s exciting, it’s really fun that everybody gets together and does this," Kierce said. "I haven’t heard of this done in any other town before. It definitely brings the community together.”

With what felt like the entire city coming together Sunday night, it’s no wonder why Tucson has a family-like vibe to many residents.

RELATED: Founder of All Souls Procession Susan Johnson never intended for the event to become as big as it has

“With Tucson, it’s a love/hate relationship sometimes, but we do these cool little things that just don’t happen anywhere else,” Kierce said.

It’s that bonding of Tucsonans that brought the community together at All Souls, even those who don’t choose to remember their loved ones in this way.

Rachel Smith has attended All Souls for the past three years, but for her and her friends, the procession is just another way to have a good time downtown.

“The people that I’ve lost in my life, like my dad, he’s a big one, this isn’t where I want to think of him, this isn’t how I want to celebrate him," Smith said, her face painted purple, white and black with a slight animated look. "This is something I just do with my friends. I think it’s great that some people can do this and it’s something we’re very respectful of, but it’s just something that my friends and I like to do [to have a good time].”

All Souls brings Tucsonans from all walks of life together; for celebration, community, festival or mourning. Unique to Tucson alone, the procession has gone on for 27 years and has had more than a lasting impact on the spirit of the Old Pueblo.


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