Today's Guest Post concerns the annual "Día de los Muertos" festivities in Tucson, Arizona. Started by a single artist in 1990, Tucson's All Souls Procession has grown into a weekend-long event with close to 100,000 participants, including numerous art instalation and altars and a pyrotechnic Finale. - T.W.
Tucson's All Souls Procession
photographs and text by Stu Jenks
Many in Western culture today seem to believe that we will never die. If we eat right, exercise and think good thoughts, we’ll live forever, and if not that, we’ll all die in our sleep, having been perfectly healthy the night before at the ripe old age of 107.
But we all know that’s not true.
Death is many things: The end of long suffering and illness; a sudden death due to accident, violence or overdose; a child dying far too soon; a peaceful transition from one life to the next; a quiet entering into the void; a life everlasting; or simply a great big dirt nap.
Any, all, or none of the above.
But one thing is not mysterious.
We will all die, every single one of us, and after we have died, friends, family, and loved ones will remember us, and most will miss that we are no longer around.
Tucson’s All Souls’ Procession Weekend is a remembrance of those who have died and the mysteries that surround them.
The weekend begins with an afternoon for children, and finishes with Sunday’s All Souls’ Procession and Finale -- when the Urn of full of prayers gathered from the crowd is spectacularly set alight -- leaving people stunned and awake, crying and smiling, somber and laughing, fearful and full of faith.
Every one I know who has participated in a Tucson All Souls’ Procession Weekend, as a walker, watcher, or performer, has a story of being unexpectedly moved, shaken, or awed.
"I saw ghosts rising from that vacant lot. I swear I did," said one acrobat, pointing across the street toward where an old city graveyard once sat.
"I really miss my daddy, so I’m making this," said a five year old girl working on a mini-shrine of twigs and grass in Armory Park for her deceased father.
"I felt my mother’s presence beside me the whole way," said one middle-aged woman, waiting to watch the Finale.
"I was brought to tears by the sounds of the bagpipes," said a man in a kilt as we ascended from beneath the Fourth Avenue underpass.
"Every time I saw Lois’s face projected on that big wall, I burst into tears,” said a woman, who stood on the roof of a warehouse along the route.
These stories are at the same time both personal and universal.
"What makes All Souls’ so amazing to me," said a long time walker of the Sunday Procession, "is we are all having this very personal experience while walking with thousands of other people, who are also having a very personal experience while walking with thousands of other people. It’s really hard to put into words."
Yes, it is.
A book of All Souls images by Stu and other Tucson photographers ecan be purchased here, with proceeds benefiting the Procession.