Thousands of Mexico City residents lined the sides of major boulevards Wednesday to catch a glimpse of the hearse carrying the ashes of singer José José.
The ashes of the Mexico City-born singer were flown back to Mexico aboard a military plane early in the day.
A hearse picked up the casket bearing his ashes at the airport and drove to the city’s downtown where admirers tossed flowers and waved to the passing vehicle as it made its way to the Palace of Fine Arts.
The Mexican Culture Ministry planned a three-hour long tribute where members of the National Symphony Orchestra played renditions of some of the icon’s songs including “El Triste” — which catapulted him into international stardom in the 1970s.
Artists from Mexico’s the Opera Studio of Fine Arts and the Saloma Quartet also honored the singer’s five decade long musical legacy during the ceremony.
“How sad it was to say goodbye,” Mexico’s secretary of culture Alejandra Frausto tweeted.
José José, known as “el príncipe de la canción” (the prince of the song), died Sept. 28 in South Florida at age 71 after battling pancreatic cancer.
After his relatives disagreed over where his remains would be laid to rest, the family agreed that one half of the ashes would remain in Miami, where his body was originally cremated, and the other half would be brought to Mexico, according to the Mexican government.
In Mexico, his ashes are expected to be taken to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe and then to the neighborhood where he was born.
José José, born José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, climbed to the top of the Latin charts in the 1970s with slow ballads like such as “Almohada” (Pillow). In 1983, he recorded his bestselling album “Secreto.”
The power of his voice and ability to sing technically difficult tunes at a high register made him a treasured cultural icon in Latin America.
Throughtout his career, José José sold more than 95 million records worldwide, making him one of the most successful Latin singers in history.
He received several Grammy nominations and numerous awards. He sold out prominent venues, including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.
His music also became popular in non-Spanish-speaking countries such as Japan, Israel, Egypt and Russia.
José José is officially being inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame on Oct. 24.