Wake for Celia Cruz

"Life is a carnival," Celia Cruz sang famously in her 1998 hit "La Vida es un Carnaval." Turns out that for the Salsa Queen, death was a carnival too. On July 19, 2003, three days after the 78-year-old singer's death, more than 70,000 bereft fans showed up to pay their last respects during her nine-hour public wake at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Local officials and music-industry honchos put the wake together in an astonishing display of civic unity. Mourners from around the world held signs proclaiming their love in a line that stretched from Biscayne Boulevard and Sixth Street to Miami Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Inside her casket, the Queen looked resplendent in a blond wig, white evening gown, and shimmering jewels. As the mourners filed by her coffin, her hits echoed from a sound system beneath the Freedom Tower's vaulted ceilings. When "Rie y Llora" played, the last hit the star recorded, her voice seemed to come from heaven. She comforted her faithful with the chorus: "Laugh. Cry. Everyone's hour arrives."


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