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Tens of thousands mourn 'Queen of Salsa'

From Rose Arce

A horse-drawn carriage takes singer Celia Cruz's body to St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan on Tuesday.

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Latin music icon Celia Cruz, the 'Queen of Salsa,' dies after battling cancer. CNN's Maria Hinojosa reports. (July 17)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Celia Cruz, dubbed the "Queen of Salsa" music, was mourned Tuesday by fans who lined Manhattan's Fifth Avenue for a 1 1/2-mile procession to her funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The body of the Cuban-born singer was carried in a glass-encased, horse-drawn carriage from an Upper East Side funeral home behind a line of flower-adorned black limousines. Her coffin was draped in a Cuban flag.

Cruz died July 16 at age 78 at her home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, after a battle with cancer.

Her widower, trumpeter Pedro Knight, joined a line of prominent Latino musicians who walked the final blocks of the procession.

Knight was met by Mayor Michael Bloomberg outside the cathedral.

Entertainers Antonio Banderas, Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades were among the mourners.

Cruz's body was dressed much as she performed -- in sparkling, extravagant colors.

Fans wept and hoisted her pictures and albums above their heads as the service began, alternately shouting her name and singing her songs.

When the religious portion began, the crowd grew quiet. Patti LaBelle sang "Ave Maria."

Thousands of Cruz fans had waited Monday to glimpse her body lying in a plush coffin bed at Frank Campbell funeral home. New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Charles Rangel were among those mourners.

The crowds exceeded those who had paid their last respects there to New York celebrities such as Judy Garland, Ed Sullivan, and Billy Martin, funeral directors said.

A wake for Cruz in Miami over the weekend drew nearly 100,000 fans.

In more than five decades of performing, Cruz scooped up many of music's highest accolades, including five Grammys and two Latin Grammys. She released more than 70 albums and appeared in 10 movies.

One of Cuba's most popular singers, she fled the island nation after Fidel Castro came to power. She became a U.S. citizen in 1961 and refused to return to her homeland as long as the Communist leader ruled.

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