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Thousands Pay Final Respects to Cuban Singer Celia Cruz - 2003-07-19

Thousands of mourners lined the streets in Miami Saturday, to pay their respects to Cuban-born salsa singer Celia Cruz who died Wednesday of a brain tumor.

Fans, some with small Cuban flags or wearing hats with Cuba's colors of red, white and blue, waited for hours under a blistering sun to file past Cruz' coffin in Miami's Freedom Tower. Recordings of her music played in the hall as mourners said their last farewell to the salsa legend, who some called the symbol of Cuba.

Thousands of mourners also are expected to take part in a memorial procession this evening (beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT / 2300 UDT) to a Catholic church for a memorial mass.

Her body will be flown Sunday to New York for the funeral Tuesday at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Cruz, who was 77, recorded more than 70 albums and won the "best salsa" award at last year's Latin Grammy Awards program.

Cruz came to the United States in 1960, one year after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Her music was banned in Cuba after she left the country.