Procession of the cross up A Mountain marks Good Friday for many Tucsonans

Volunteers carried a 17-foot cross up the road to A Mountain, overlooking Downtown Tucson, during Los Dorados’ 57th annual procession to mark Good Friday.

Dozens of believers gathered for the event Friday evening.

The procession has been held by Los Dorados Orphan League on Sentinel Peak for generations, going back to the 1960s. A stark white wooden cross — which weighs about 185 lbs. and was decorated with white fabric lilies — was settled on white wooden blocks along Sentinel Peak Road.

Since 1967, Los Dorados has held La Procession de Viernes Santo and
carried the cross up the mountain, where it’s settled into a metal frame
and raised over the city. On Saturday, the group will hold a vigil,
and on Sunday at 6 a.m. the group will hold a sunrise service.

Coordinator Gina Herrera said the memory of her father, David Herrera, motivates her to continue participating in the procession. He was a founder of the Los Dorados and had worked during his life to provide support and services for “youths in bad paths.”

“The kids told my dad they didn’t really know who Jesus was,” Herrera said. “And he said, ‘We’re going to build a cross and we’re going to do the stations of the cross.’ He wanted them to learn about Jesus because Jesus knew what it was like to be beaten down and humiliated. He wanted them to know how he felt.”

The event began with a traditional blessing by Jeremy Carlyle, a
member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. After he spoke, volunteers hoisted
the cross onto their shoulders and carried it up the road to
13 stops — each representing a station of the cross — under the setting sun.
At each point, a volunteer would read from a pamphlet while Pastor
Leobardo Garcia played a guitar.

A group of children also carried a small version of the main cross. Behind them, a row of women carried the “sudario” – the shroud.

“They represent Mary holding the wrappings for Jesus,” said Los Dorados member Manny Jacquez. “That’s why only women can carry el sudario.”

Herrera said that while the event had Catholic origins, having a specific denomination associated with the procession wasn’t inclusive. Now, people from different faiths join the procession under a shared belief.

“We’ve had rabbis come here and people from different religions too,” Herrera said.

During the event, stories of “miracles” were told in conversations. Maryann Leon, who had attended the procession with her husband for 40 years before his recent death, said she has been taking part since she was eight years old. She told the Tucson Sentinel that she had had cancer and her kidneys were heavily compromised. One day, she felt pain from the frozen growth on her kidney. When she went to the doctor, she received news of her condition.

“They put me in the (MRI) machine four times and I said, ‘You’ve put me here four times, what’s wrong?'” Leon said. “The doctor said that it metastasized and the medicine that froze it killed it.”

Leon is now cancer-free, which she said is a miracle. She joined the whole way of the procession with the help of her daughter and her wheelchair.

Los Dorados member Andy Marmolejo has been attending the procession since he was young. His grandfather Sal Gomez was one of the founders, along with David Herrera, who died in 2017.

“My parents used to come and now I’m here too – my family will be here soon. And this,” Marmolejo held up the picture of his son who died in 2017 from an infection. “He’s still doing this with me. My son. And we do this because of faith. And with everything that’s happening in the world, this gives people hope.”

“We do this because of faith. If we don’t have faith…” Jacquez looked out at the mountains, shifting his weight on his cane.

The group of volunteers prayed all the way up the cross’ base in “A” Mountain. At the peak, they attached the “sudario” to the cross, and hoisted it up
for display as the sun set low behind the Tucson Mountains.

“I hope that people don’t feel alone,” Herrera said. She referenced Jesus Christ, telling the Sentinel, “Because he knew what it was like.”