MEXICO CITY - Fans and family paid their respects to Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Monday, leaving flowers and playing music in remembrance of the Nobel laureate and giant of Latin American literature.
Hundreds thronged outside Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts, a domed jewel of early 20th century architecture, to lay bouquets and see the urn containing the ashes of the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," who died in Mexico on Thursday, at age 87.
Mourners used umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they bade farewell to the man known to friends and fans alike as "Gabo," who lived his later years in Mexico City. Some struck up music, playing on tamborines and maracas.
Inside, a few guests cried out "Gabo" as the author's ashes entered in a box into the Palace of Fine Arts, where Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, were expected to pay tribute later on Monday.
Colombia is due to hold a separate memorial on Tuesday.
Fellow authors lavished praise on Garcia Marquez after his death and political leaders across the world were quick to pay their respects.
Garcia Marquez's works have sold in the tens of millions, captivating highbrow literary critics and tapping into the region's everyday mythmaking.
"He awakened in me a love of literature and he will always be unique for me because
he marked my life," said Monserrat Paredes, a 27-year-old biologist carrying a bouquet of yellow roses, Garcia Marquez's favorite. "His genius didn't make him immortal, although he is for me," she said in tears.
Monica Arrisson, a 55-year-old math teacher visiting Mexico City from the northern state of Chihuahua, said Garcia Marquez was "the biggest there was in Latin America."
Though he wrote stories, essays and short novels in the 1950s and early 1960s, he did not find fame until "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was published in 1967. Late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes dubbed it "Latin America's Don Quixote."
The novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the Colombian town of Aracataca, where Garcia Marquez was born.
Combining miraculous and supernatural events with details of everyday life, Garcia Marquez used the novel to explore the political landscape of Latin America. It sold more than 30 million copies and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.
He followed his best-known novel with other major works including "Autumn of the Patriarch," "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."