Spaniards pay last respects to flamenco legend Paco de Lucia
Spaniards from all walks of life flocked as devoted fans to a Madrid music hall on Friday to pay their final respects to flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucia.
A stream of visitors ranging from politicians and music stars to ordinary citizens who only knew him from afar streamed past his closed coffin laid out in the Spanish capital’s main music venue.
“He was a genius, a genius in all aspects. In the way he composed, in the way he innovated, in everything,” said Pedro Benitez, 45, a lifelong fan who was the first in the line of people waiting in silence to pay their respects.
“He is a Mozart of our times,” added Benitez as he stood at the entrance to the venue beside his wife Maria who arrived there at 7:30 am to mark their place in the queue.
Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez, the guitarist died of a heart attack aged 66 on Tuesday after feeling unwell while playing football on a beach with his eight-year-old son near the Caribbean resort of Playa del Carmen.
His body arrived in Madrid on Friday and the coffin was displayed at the red-brick National Auditorium of Music for four hours.
He will be buried in his home town of Algeciras in southern Spain on Saturday.
Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert said the huge numbers of people who turned out to bid farewell to the musician showed “the immense affection” Spaniards had for him.
“He has always been an ambassador of Spanish culture, a master, someone who took flamenco to the end of the world,” the minister said as he arrived at the music hall.
De Lucia brought flamenco to a world audience with his speedy fingerwork, which is credited with modernising the gypsy tradition of his native Andalusia by absorbing jazz and pop influences.
His casket was drapped with the red and yellow Spanish flag and the green and white flag of Andalucia, the southern Spanish region where he is from and which is the cradle of flamenco.
It was surrounded by yellow rope and flanked by over 20 round floral wreaths set up on easels.
Mourners walked slowly by the coffin which was on the stage of the music hall. Some took pictures with their mobile phone or gave flowers to a young boy who laid then by the coffin.
“We have a lot of affection and respect for everything he did to promote flamenco,” said Javier Pinto, an unemployed house painter from Cadiz who held a red carnation and his black motorcycle helmet as he stood in the queue.
Fans left tributes in three condolence books laid out on a table in the lobby of the music hall.
“Thank you for your legacy, thank you for being born, thank you master,” one mourner wrote on the first page of a condolence book.