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Let us now praise famous men (and women)

5 October 2009
ataud.ap_1

Photo: Milenio

Mercedes Sosa’s body laid in state in the Argentine Palacio Legislativo over the weekend, an homage reserved for very few Argentines in public life.

Poet Mario Benedetti was similarly honored by the Uruguayan government after his death earlier this year.

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Photo: BBC

Compay Segundo, the Cuban guitarist, did not receive a formal state funeral after his death in 2003, but his funeral cortage included a military honor guard.

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Photo: AFP

Celia Cruz, another of the Cuban greats, died the same year, but in exile.  The services (in Miami, and later in New York’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral) — replete with the laying in state, and a flag-draped cortage — were those a people offer to a fallen national leader, not a mere nightclub singer.

Maria Felix, the film star, was laid out in the Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes following “La Doña’s” death in April 2002,  in a ceremony similar to that given intellectual heavyweight, Octavio Paz in 1998:

Though Mr. Paz was a cerebral and not a populist poet, his death moved many Mexicans. Thousands of admirers, mighty and humble, filed past his coffin yesterday during a wake in the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City that had all the pomp of a state funeral. At the ceremony President Zedillo paid an unusual homage to Mr. Paz, calling him a ”universal Mexican” and praising him for his pioneering and persistent criticism of the political system that Mr. Zedillo now heads.

Other than Michael Jackson’s funeral, a commercial affair to which  they sold tickets (and had an “official website),  you hear almost nothing about it when a cultural figure dies.  In the United States, people talk about the “culture wars“, but to the fallen warrior, we give no glory.

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