Students dressed as angels carry the nacimiento, or Nativity scene, for the Carrillo K-5 Magnet School’s 75th Annual Jubilee of the Las Posadas in 2011.

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The figures of a Nativity scene can be found throughout the Christian world.

The annual procession called Las Posadas, in which children go door-to-door seeking a place for Mary and Joseph to stay, has been enacted in Mexico since the 1500s.

In Tucson, the longest-running Las Posadas tradition is at Carrillo K-5 Magnet School, inaugurated by school teacher Marguerite Collier in 1937.

Collier wanted to celebrate the traditions of her students at a time when they were forbidden to speak Spanish in the classroom.

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This re-enactment of the New Testament story of Jesus Christ’s birth has survived many changes in school leadership and complaints to the Tucson Unified School District that it is a religious activity, unsuited for public school. It has survived as a voluntary, after-school cultural activity that does not use school district money.

Each December, Carrillo students, some costumed and angel-winged, walk through the streets of Barrio El Hoyo, the historic Tucson neighborhood south of downtown, where their school is located.

They carry candles and sing in Spanish. They seek shelter — room at the inn, or a “posada.”

Contact reporter Tom Beal at or 573-4158.