Friday, November 30, 2012

'Macho' Camacho gets horse-drawn send-off in East Harlem

Hector "Macho" Camacho returned to the New York neighborhood he knew so well and was given a hero's send-off by the thousands of mourners who lined the East Harlem streets where he was raised.

The legendary boxer's casket was paraded through the same streets where he learned to fight in a white  horse-drawn carriage and was greeted by cheers of appreciation and tears of grief.

Camacho's procession was nothing less than the flamboyant fighter would have wanted.

The three-time champion's casket was draped in a Puerto Rican flag and and started its final trip in front of St. Cecelia's Catholic Church on East 106th Street, going up Fifth Avenue, across 116th street, back down Fifth Avenue and finally winding up back at the church.

People followed the procession and marched behind the vehicles carrying Camacho's mourning friends and family.

Overhead, people hung out windows waving Puerto Rican flags and chanted, "Macho. Macho" from behind police barricades.

"I love you guys," said the boxer's mother Maria Matias — the woman who had the heartbreaking task of authorizing doctors to remove her brain dead son from life support just a few days ago.  The 50-year-old Camacho was shot in the face outside a bar in his birthplace of Bavamon, Puerto Rico last week.  Three men are in custody for the shooting which left a friend of Camacho dead.

The line to get into the church by people wishing to pay their respects wound around the block.

"I fought hard to bring my son here, where he belongs," said Matias.  "He fought here, he was raised here and now he is being buried here.  Look at all the supporters here, it is amazing."

While Friday's farewell was a lovefest for the local hero, a farewell in Puerto Rico on Tuesday was disrupted by a woman who claimed to be Camacho's girlfriend and angered his sisters by lifting a veil in the open casket and kissing him.

On this day, it was all about the good memories of the popular fighter.

"They are telling me that Camacho is alive today.  His spirit is not dead,' said Matias.  "He is a champion. I will always carry him in my heart."

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