MEXICO CITY - Tens of thousands of fans filled a Mexico City stadium Sunday to say goodbye to "Chespirito," comedian Roberto Gomez Bolanos, whose beloved TV characters entertained generations of Latin American children.
A coffin bearing his remains was carried into the Azteca stadium on a red trailer flanked by the characters he created, an orphan who lived in a barrel and a goofy superhero with a big heart.
At the sight of it, the crowd rose to their feet chanting "Chespirito! Chespirito!" His widow Florinda Meza, a star in the legendary series, waved from another vehicle to the fans who had waited in line for hours to bid farewell to the actor. He died in Cancun on Friday at age 85.
Eduardo de la Borbolla said he had come to say thanks "for all these years that he made us laugh." In honour of his hero, he sported a red cap with the symbol of "El Chapulin Colorado" (Red Grasshopper), one of Gomez Bolanos's most famous characters.
The actor - whose nickname Chespirito meant "Little Shakespeare," for his short stature and prolific writing - created some of the most popular television shows in the history of Latin America.
In "El Chavo del Ocho" ("The Kid from the Eight"), he played a mischievous orphan who always wore a hat with ear flaps and slept in a barrel in the courtyard of a working-class housing complex.
In "El Chapulin Colorado," he was a red-hooded superhero with antennas and armed with a yellow and red hammer. His victory catchphrase was, "They didn't count on my cleverness!" "He was like a brother, an uncle, a father," said Esteban Chavez, as he waited in line to enter the stadium. "That is why we came to say goodbye." - 'A master is gone' - ====================== Tens of thousands of children and adults thronged the stadium, many of them in the costumes of their favourite characters.
Before arriving at the stadium, Gomez Bolanos' coffin was paraded through the streets of Mexico City, past applauding crowds.
Televisa, the Mexican television network where Gomez Bolanos spent his entire career, orchestrated the event, which also included a somber religious ceremony and speeches.
A giant cross was erected in the stadium on an enormous red carpeted stage between towering portraits of the comedian.
"A genius, a master is gone," said actor Carlos Villagran, one of the players in "El Chavo del Ocho." "El Chavo del Ocho" and "El Chapulin Colorado" had millions of viewers from Mexico to the Andes and the tip of South America, as well as in Portuguese-speaking Brazil.
The shows were exported to more than 25 countries, including Thailand and Russia, and reruns can still be seen in some countries.
Colombian Toris Jaimes said "as little girls we just loved El Chavo, and we have so many fond memories. We are grateful he was part of our lives, so that's why we are here." In Bogota, the tallest building in the city, the Torre Colpatria, was illuminated in red with the "Chapulin Colorado's" trademark yellow heart.
His comedies masked deep fears that haunted him since childhood.
Born to a Mexico City middle-class family on February 21, 1929, his father, a painter and illustrator for newspapers, died when he was eight years old.
Gomez Bolanos studied engineering but, at the age of 22, he began to write for an advertising company before moving on to radio, television and film scripts.
His television show "Chespirito," which began to air when he was 40 years old, was on the air for 25 years.