All Soul’s Procession

Tonight the dead came out to dance.

I don’t know why it took me so long to finally make it to Tucson’s All Soul’s Procession, but I’m glad to have finally gone this year.

Thousands of people dressed up in white paint and skeletal faces–along with dress up clothes of all sorts: black suits and black dresses, yes, but also bright reds and various other sparkling, glittering colors. Together they marched, some pulling elaborate floats, others alone with just a name or two held on a sign or hanging from their necks, to remember their dead and all the dead. Those of us gathered on the sidelines on Fourth Avenue were given pieces of paper, too, so that we could write down our own names and put them in a cauldron that would be burned when the procession made its way downtown. (We were also reminded that anyone was welcome to march, if they chose to.)

The costumes and dancers spanned the world, from Mexico to China and Japan to Scandinavia, from folklorica dancers in bright skirts to Vikings in a faux dragon boat. There was a dead wedding procession (of course), and countless drummers, and our local bellydance group. There were signs held up, too, for those lost in the desert south of Tucson, and in Afghanistan, and in Iraq; for those lost to various illnesses and various forms of discrimination. There were accordion and string players, drummers or all sorts, and countless individuals, not part of the larger groups, in flowers and white paint, or not, walking, dancing, remembering the dead.

I felt joy and tears together, which is, of course, the point. Because tonight the dead dressed up and came out to dance.

And reminded us, without words, that we should be dancing, too.

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