Thousands of people flooded the hometown of late Brazilian country music star Marilia Mendonca Saturday to pay an emotional tribute to the beloved singer, a day after she was killed in a plane crash at age 26.
Mendonca, a Latin Grammy-winning superstar of Brazilian “sertanejo” music, died with four other people Friday when a small plane carrying her to a concert crashed in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.
Her body was flown Saturday to the central city of Goiania, her home, where crowds of distraught fans lined up to file past her white-draped casket at a massive public wake.
Known for her soaring voice and sorrowful songs, Mendonca managed to break into a country music scene long dominated by men and machismo. She was a leading figure in a burgeoning sub-genre known as “feminejo,” or sertanejo music by women.
But her massive fan base included men and women alike. Many mourners outside the stadium where the wake was held could barely find words to describe their sadness.
“It’s an emotion so strong we don’t even know how to express it. It’s an immense pain, for all Brazilians,” 22-year-old Matheus Alves told AFP.
“It was a tremendous loss. It’s such a blow I don’t even have the words to explain it,” said 16-year-old student Gustavo Lacerda, before breaking into one of Mendonca’s songs, “Eu Sei de Cor” (I Know it By Heart).
Fans started lining up at dawn outside the 15,000-capacity arena, where large floral arrangements arrived in a steady stream.
About 100,000 people were expected to attend, said Goias state Governor Ronaldo Caiado.
The star and an uncle who worked with her, also killed in the crash, were to be laid to rest later in a small private ceremony at a local cemetery.
Mendonca’s producer and the plane’s two pilots were also killed in the crash, which left their twin-engine Beechcraft King Air C90A shattered against the rocks near a picturesque waterfall outside the city of Caratinga, where the artist had been scheduled to perform.
Authorities said the plane hit an electrical tower just kilometers from the Caratinga airport, but it was unclear whether that caused the accident or if the aircraft was already on its way down.
Air force officials were at the scene Saturday investigating.
Nicknamed the “Queen of Suffering,” Mendonca was known for ballads of heartbreak and spurned lovers, but also for singing of women’s empowerment and the need to “overcome” — the title of one of her most famous songs.
She had 22 million subscribers on YouTube, 39 million followers on Instagram and more than 8 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Her death drew heartfelt tributes from figures ranging from Brazilian music legend Caetano Veloso to football superstar Neymar to President Jair Bolsonaro, who said the country was “in shock.”
“She was one of the greatest artists of her generation,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
Mendonca, however, was no fan of the far-right president, who has often been accused of sexist remarks and anti-women policies.
The wake for Mendonca and her uncle was carried live on national TV, and drew wall-to-wall coverage in the Brazilian media.