The coffin of Cuba's prima ballerina Alicia Alonso, covered by white gauze and white roses, arrives at the Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba, Oct. 19, 2019. Over 20,000 Cubans said goodbye on Saturday to world-famous ballerina Alicia Alonso, who died two days ago at age 98. People paid final respect to Alonso at Havana's Grand Theater "Alicia Alonso" that is named after the ballerina and choreographer to highlight her contribution to the Cuban art and culture. (Photo by Joaquin Hernandez/Xinhua)
By Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Over 20,000 Cubans said goodbye on Saturday to world-famous ballerina Alicia Alonso, who died two days ago at age 98.
People paid final respect to Alonso at Havana's Grand Theater "Alicia Alonso" that is named after the ballerina and choreographer to highlight her contribution to the Cuban art and culture.
Among the mourners were President Miguel Diaz-Canel and the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), Raul Castro, accompanied by the head of the National Assembly (parliament), Esteban Lazo, and the Second Secretary of the PCC, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.
Alonso's coffin, covered by white gauze and white roses, was placed at the foot of the marble staircase in the theater. A large national flag of Cuba and bouquets of flowers honored the site.
Floral offerings by Diaz-Canel and Castro, who presided over the posthumous tribute, were placed next to the coffin. The event was broadcast live on the national television and radio.
The funeral procession passed the main streets of the Cuban capital before arriving at the Colon Cemetery, where Alonso was buried at the family pantheon as asked by her family.
"The jewels that you created accompany you today and dance around you with a laurel wreath," said historian Eusebio Leal in the farewell speech, followed by a loud applause and shouts of "Bravo, Alicia" by dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) during the burial.
Near the age of 99 on Dec. 21, Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martinez del Hoyo, Alonso's real name, died on Thursday from cardiovascular conditions at Havana's Center for Clinical and Surgical Research.
She was the BNC's director and prima ballerina assoluta, well-known in particular for her performances of Giselle and Carmen. Alonso's ballet career started as early as 1931 when she studied at Havana's ballet school. Later in her life, she went to the United States, where she received acclaims on the Broadway stage and at the Ballet Caravan among others.
She had also worked with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, a story of great success that took her to 65 countries with a repertoire of 134 works, from romantic classical to contemporary.
In October 1948, Alonso founded the ballet company which was the predecessor of the BNC. In 1950, she founded a ballet academy to train ballet dancers and established the world known Cuban ballet school standards and practices.
Despite a progressive loss of vision in her life, Alonso insisted on dancing and remained active on stage and in the training of generations of ballet dancers, until very advanced age.
Her contribution to the world Ballet art won her a lot of degrees and awards at home and abroad and enabled her to be a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.