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MEXICO CITY – Hundreds of people lined the streets of Mexico City on Monday to pay their last respects to beloved singer Juan Gabriel as a motorcade carried his ashes to a farewell ceremony at the capital’s Palace of Fine Arts.
The ashes arrived from Ciudad Juarez, the border city where Juan Gabriel grew up and where a memorial ceremony was held over the weekend.
In the Mexican capital, an urn containing the singer’s remains is on display.
Ana Maria Beltran, holding a single red rose in a nod to her favorite Juan Gabriel song “Esta Rosa Roja” (“This Red Rose”) told the Los Angeles Times that the singer “was a teacher for all of Mexico” who inspired the country through his rousing ballads and motivational dance hits.
“We all went to his school,” she added.
The singer, who had suffered from health problems in the past, was in the middle of a U.S. tour when he suffered a fatal heart attack on Aug. 28 in Santa Monica. He was 66 and was capping a 45-year career that marked an era in Mexican popular music.
“All Mexicans know the national anthem, las mañanitas [a traditional birthday song] and at least one song by Juan Gabriel,” fan Rodrigio Marin Mejia told the Times. “We heard his music since the day we were born. He has left us, but thank god his songs are still here.”
The government’s Ministry of Culture organized a series of concerts to honor the singer, which will include the likes of Pepe Aguilar and Ana Gabriel.
His family plans to convert his house in Ciudad Juarez into a museum.
Having Juan Gabriel’s remains on display at the Palace of Fine Arts is significant as the singer became the first non-classical musician to perform there in 1990. A live recording of the concert has become one of the singer’s best-known albums.
Elizabeth Aguilar of Chile was among those who turned out in Mexico City. She said: "I have followed him ever since I can remember, and I have always liked his music."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.