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All Souls Procession weekend in Tucson celebrates its 32nd year

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Laz Azaleas, a Latina music group, which will be performing mariachi influenced music during the finale ceremony of All Souls Procession on Sunday, Nov. 7. Courtesy Chrisitian B. Meza 

The 32nd annual All Souls Procession is back in person. The free three-day celebration brings the Tucson community together to celebrate those who have passed, and will take place from Friday, Nov. 5, to Sunday, Nov. 7, in downtown Tucson.

This inclusive public ceremony gathers members of the community to mourn, reflect and celebrate the death of loved ones, ancestors and the living.

Live events such as the Luz De Vida II Concert, the All Souls Procession Ceremony and the Casa De Los Muertos After Party offer individuals a moment to deepen their connection to lost loved ones and their fellow neighbors. 

The most popular portion of the weekend is the All Souls Procession and Ceremony, which encourages patrons to gather on Grande Avenue at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 to walk two miles along the streets of downtown Tucson to the Mercado San Agustin Annex, where the ceremony will take place.

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In 1990, artist Susan Johnson created a ceremonial performance piece in memory of her father, which marked the beginning of All Souls Procession in Tucson. This creative form of memorializing inspired fellow artists to do the same, ultimately leading to the growth of the event as we know it today according to the All Souls website.

A month prior to the procession, small groups gather to prepare their methods of commemoration such as altars, floats, puppets, costumes or music to share with thousands of participants who attend the All Souls weekend.  

Nicole Stansbury, Odaiko Sonora's artistic director, said she believes that it is extremely powerful to facilitate a community-based ritual to this extent annually. 

“Anyone who wants to participate can put prayers into the urn and follow the procession, walk with the procession, dress up, commemorate people or things that have passed that they either want to release or remember,” Stansbury said.

Following the human-powered procession through the city streets, participants can place their ofrendas into a large urn, which contains offerings such as hopes and prayers for those who have passed.

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At the end, the urn is lifted toward the sky and set ablaze. In unity, all in attendance watch this moment. Diana Olivares, the musical director for the ceremony, described this experience as magical. 

“It is so magical and so beautiful. A word that comes to mind is community because everyone participates in it and everyone is collectively grieving and celebrating at the same time,” Olivares said.

Olivares is also a member of Las Azaleas, an all female Mexican-American music group, which will be performing mariachi-influenced music during the final ceremony. 

Las Azaleas developed a musical performance, which expresses the various stages of grief humans tend to experience. 

“There's many highs and lows that we experience. It's never just one dimensional. It's never just sadness, loss or anger, it's everything. Eventually grief can get to a place where we can honor and celebrate the person or persons we've lost,” Olivares said. 

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Olivares' goal is to take everyone on a journey through the cycles of grief through music, starting from a place of despair and longing and ending with an elevation in people's energies and moods to want to celebrate and remember. 

This celebration brings individuals together where they can share their feelings of loss through celebration.


Diana Olivares

Diana Olivares, member of Las Azaleas. (Courtesy Chrisitian B. Meza) 


“Particularly after the past two years since COVID-19 happened, there has been immense loss for everyone and coming together and sharing that experience with one another," Olivares said. "There's just magic in the air between us."

Hannah Sidell, a senior psychology major at the University of Arizona, attended the event in person her sophomore year and described it as a welcoming environment. 

“Being a part of a community where people get to bring their passed loved ones back to life for one night through celebration is such a great experience,” Sidell said. 

Sidell said she is looking forward to attending this year's event now that it is back in person. 

For further details on the event, visit the 32nd annual All Souls Procession website.


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