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Mexicans Say Heartfelt Goodbye to Their ‘Amor Eterno,’ Juan Gabriel

Image: Juan Gabriel funeral, Mexico City, Mexico - 05 Sep 2016

Fan holds a sign, "I'll see you in heaven, Juan Gabriel," outside a posthumous tribute to the singer at the Bellas Artes Palace as part of the days-long goodbye for Juan Gabriel in Mexico City, Mexico on Sept. 5, 2016. Carlos Tischler/REX/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

The images of hundreds of thousands who paid their final respects to the late Mexican singing-songwriting superstar Juan Gabriel make the scene reminiscent of that of the funeral of a head of state. But that is just how beloved "El Divo de Juárez," as he is known to his cheering audiences, is to millions.

To many of his mournful fans, Juan Gabriel is as one of his most iconic songs is named, an "Amor Eterno, an "eternal love."

Anywhere between half a million to one-million fans made the pilgrimage to Mexico City's famed Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, Monday and Tuesday to honor their musical hero and walk by an urn holding his cremated remains.

Image: Fans take pictures of the urn containing the ashes of Juan Gabriel during his second day homage in the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City
Fans take pictures of the urn containing the ashes of Juan Gabriel during his second day homage in the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City, Mexico September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso CARLOS JASSO / Reuters

Notable Mexican musicians such as Ana Gabriel [no relation], Pablo Montero and others performed before the ashes of their late friend. Some ten screens were placed outside Bellas Artes so that fans not inside could partake in the performances of Mexico's pop and mariachi music.

RELATED: Fans Mourning Death of Acclaimed Singer Juan Gabriel

The outpouring of love by such a multitude of fans at Bellas Artes was greater than ceremonies held for such legendary Mexican figures such as literary giant Octavio Paz, beloved comedian Mario Moreno "Cantinflas," and iconic actress of Mexico's cinematic golden age, María Félix.

Image: Singer Pablo Montero touches the box containing the ashes ofashes of the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel during his homage in the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City, Mexico
Singer Pablo Montero touches the box containing the ashes ofashes of the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel during his homage in the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City. HENRY ROMERO / Reuters

This ceremony for Juan Gabriel in Mexico's pantheon of culture would most likely have been unthinkable when he began his career in the 1970s; and yet by 1990, Juan Gabriel became the first pop artist to perform in this exalted space previously reserved for classical musicians.

Watch Footage From Juan Gabriel's Last Concert 0:48

The concert of his pop and mariachi hits was a sold-out one, the live album an instant sensation, and the performance sealed his status as one of Mexico's brightest stars and breakers of barriers.

As Telemundo's Ingrid Barrera describes so eloquently, "Juanga," one of his many monikers, "broke down social barriers because he brought sequins to mariachi music in a country of machismo."

Image: Son of Juan Gabriel receives ashes
The son of singer Juan Gabriel, Ivan Aguilera (R), is accompanied by his wife, Simona Hakman, and the representative of the recently deceased artist, Jesus Salas (L), as he receives the urn with his father's ashes at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, Mexico, 06 September 2016, where a tribute to the late singer was held. MARIO GUZMAN / EPA

Juan Gabriel became famous for lyrics that could touch the hearts of one and all; young, old, working-class, upper-class, urban and rural. He sang fiercely yet sometimes sweetly with his iconic voice and danced and dressed with an exuberance never previously exhibited by male musicians in Mexico in the 1970s.

Image:
Mariachis who performed during the arrival of the ashes of Mexican music superstar Juan Gabriel wait in line to pay their respects, in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Rebecca Blackwell / AP

Mexican singer Alejandra Avalos, who performed at the ceremonies held in honor of Juan Gabriel, told Telemundo that "to me he was the greatest idol our country has ever brought forth, at the level of an Elton John." And yet, the comparison to Elton John doesn't quite encapsulate the status Juan Gabriel achieved in Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world to many fans and music critics we have talked to; they point to a mix of Elton John, Elvis Presley, a Tom Jones, but in the end Mexico's inimitable Juan Gabriel.

Juan Gabriel to many was indisputably an "amor eterno." Gonzalo Morales, a Mexican publicist Telemundo spoke to, said that "everyone can relate to 'amor eterno' with the loss of a loved one, it's not the same with a movie by Cantinflas."

For many fans throughout Latin America and the U.S., Juan Gabriel spoke straight to the heart with his lyrics.

Image: MEXICO-MUSIC-JUAN GABRIEL-TRIBUTE
People gather outside the Palace of Fine Arts to pay tribute to Mexico's late Latin music legend Juan Gabriel, in Mexico City, on September 5, 2016. PEDRO PARDO / AFP - Getty Images

One such fan, Filiberto García, told Telemundo he drove three hours from the state of Veracruz and got time off work to be present at the final goodbye.

His remains were flown to Mexico City, where thousands of mournful fans lined the streets for the funeral procession to Bellas Artes, from his hometown of Ciudad Juarez.

In that border city, Juan Gabriel was the subject of legend. He arrived there as a young child from his native Michoacán state, in central Mexico. His mother was a housekeeper, he spent most of his youth in a shelter for underprivileged children, and yet managed to achieve stardom in a country with few chances at climbing the socioeconomic ladder.

TELEMUNDO VIDEO: Bellas Artes Recibe a Fans de Juan Gabriel

Once he achieved fame and fortune, Juan Gabriel opened an orphanage to help border children like himself. Some of those children, now adults and musicians themselves, paid homage to him in concerts in Juan Gabriel's honor.

Félix Rodríguez, who first went to the orphanage as an eight year old, told Telemundo that some of the kids he knew at the orphanage are now "engineers, accountants, even architects."

To so many Mexicans and lovers of his music the words to his "Amor Eterno" could not be more apt.

"Cómo quisiera, qué tu vivieras, qué tus ojitos jamás se hubieran cerrado nunca y estar mirándolos. Amor eterno e inolvidable."

"How I wish that you lived, that your eyes had never closed and to be looking at them. Eternal and unforgettable love."

Image: Fans take pictures of the hearse carrying the ashes of the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel as its arrives at the official tribute outside the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City, Mexico
Fans take pictures of the hearse carrying the ashes of the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel as its arrives at the official tribute outside the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City. CARLOS JASSO / Reuters

On Wednesday, Juan Gabriel's remains will be flown to his residence in the border city of Ciudad Juárez where he spent most of his childhood and first made a name for himself.

There are talks of converting the home--where his mother once worked as a housekeeper for previous owners—into a Mexican "Graceland."

Juan Gabriel died in Santa Monica, California on August 28th of a heart attack, at age 66. He was in the midst of a U.S.-Mexico tour, having just performed two days prior at the Forum in the Los Angeles area.

Noticias Telemundo's Ingrid Barrera's reporting in Mexico City and Raúl Torres and Magali Ayala's reporting in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico contributed to this story.

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