The funeral procession for Paco de Lucía, who died on Tuesday at age 66, reached Madrid's National Auditorium at 1:30pm on Friday. By then, there was already a line of people going around the block waiting to pay their last respects to the world-famous guitarist who took flamenco to new heights by blending it with jazz, pop and other musical genres.
Ten black cars escorted the artist's body, which was flown in from the Mexican resort of Cancún, where he died suddenly on Wednesday while playing on the beach with his small children. Preliminary reports suggested he had suffered a heart attack.
The coffin was placed on the stage of the Symphony Room, flanked by two dozen wreaths and covered with the Spanish and the Andalusian flags, a reference to his place of birth, Algeciras (Cádiz).
His family had initially wanted the wake to be held inside Madrid's opera house, the Teatro Real, since Paco de Lucía was the first flamenco artist to perform at this venue back in 1975. Relatives did not disguise their discontent at the fact that this was not possible in the end -- the Teatro cited scheduling conflicts -- as well as the fact that the government did not provide an official aircraft to fly the body back home.
Half an hour after the cortège arrived at the Auditorium, Crown Prince Felipe de Borbón and Madrid Mayor Ana Botella arrived to pay their last respects to a man who has been described as the best guitarist in the history of music.
Many flamenco celebrities came by to say farewell to the man who took their genre to the world's most respected stages and regularly performed with Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola, among other globally famous artists. De Lucía's friend, the music producer Javier Limón, recalled an anecdote in which Corea told Paco they should tour together: "Paco, let's tour with my band and you play. Or let's tour with your band and I'll play. Or you play and I'll dance. Anything to be with Paco de Lucía."
Culture Minister José Ignacio Wert showed up around 2:50pm. Boos and jeers were heard from the crowd as he passed by, including the nickname of "anticulture minister," coined by actor Javier Bardem at the Goya film awards.