ALGECIRAS, Spain: Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday in Algeciras in southern Spain to bid farewell to renowned flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, who was laid to rest in his native Andalusian village.
A crowd of fans of the musician, who died in Mexico on Tuesday aged 66, stood in the rain outside the Notre Dame de la Palma church where the funeral mass was held.
“The sky is crying. A very great guitar master is gone,” said 35-year-old villager Sonia Cordoba, standing under an umbrella with her daughter.
According to the family’s wishes, the mass followed by the burial in the village cemetery were to be very private affairs.
But not even heavy rainfall could stop fans from coming out to pay their last respects to the flamenco music legend whose body arrived in his home region late Friday from Madrid.
In the Spanish capital thousands of admirers, including Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia, had filed past the closed coffin displayed at National Auditorium of Music.
De Lucia brought flamenco to a world audience with his speedy fingerwork, and is credited with modernizing the gypsy tradition of Andalusia by absorbing jazz and pop influences.
Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez on Dec. 21, 1947, the guitarist died of a heart attack after feeling unwell while playing football on a beach with his eight-year-old son near the Caribbean resort of Playa del Carmen.
In Algeciras, the casket draped with the red and yellow Spanish flag and the green and white flag of Andalusia was placed in city hall where a funeral procession began of family members and friends.
“We both lived in Bajadilla,” recalled Lola Leon, 58, of the working class neighborhood where the guitarist grew up.
He was from a low-income family where playing flamenco was your bread-and-butter, she said.
She remembers impromptu concerts by Paco and his singing partner, Camaron de la Isla, with whom he formed a legendary flamenco duo until the singer died in 1992.
“They went to a friend’s house, and they started to play. We girls, we sat at the door and listened, amazed,” she said.
Other mourners also had their memories of growing up with the Spanish musician and some, like Juan Sanchez, could not hold back the tears.
“We became friends on the beach at Rinconcillo and on Sundays we would spend time playing cards or dominoes,” said the 49-year-old electrician who drove nine hours from Barcelona to pay tribute to his old friend.
From the flamenco music world, dancer David Morales came to the funeral along with singer Nina Pastori and dancer Farruquito.
“Paco was an icon, a genius,” almost like “a god” to flamenco artists, said Morales.
And of his death, he added: “The truth is no one can believe it.”