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Mexico reels from the loss of Juanga, whose lyrics about love and loss struck a common chord as he overcame the gender stereotypes of a chauvinist society

Mexican media went to work on Monday morning with a burning question: where were the remains of singer Juan Gabriel?

Reporters staked out an airport near Mexico City, where his remains were to arrive and be taken to the Bellas Artes cultural centre for a funeral, while officials in the singers adopted hometown of Ciudad Jurez and his birth state of Michoacn made their cases for where Juanga as Juan Gabriel was affectionately known should be returned to. The location of his burial will certainly become Mexicos Graceland.

Despite fevered speculation, his legal representative called for calm, saying the singers children want to be alone with the body of their father.

Residents participate in a rally around a statue of Juan Gabriel in Paracuaro, Michoacan state, Mexico on Monday. Photograph: Enrique Castro/AFP/Getty Images

People sometimes forget that in addition to being an idol that belonged to Mexico, Juan Gabriel had a family, his attorney Silvia Urquidi told Televisa. Children who have not processed the pain they feel.

Mexico is still reeling from the loss of an icon, whose music struck a common chord, serving as the soundtrack to countless lives. His showmanship, effeminate appearance and fondness for sequins and shiny shirts overcame the gender stereotypes of a chauvinist society, while his lyrics about love and loss spoke to all.

That Juanga overcame hardships in early life he was orphaned at a young age along with his nine siblings, and later served 18 months in prison on robbery charges to hit the big time, only added to the appeal of a performer with whom the often oppressed masses could easily identify.

There was definitely this transcendence from high-brow to low-brow with Juan Gabriel. He straddled all the social classes, says Esteban Illades, editor of Nexos, a high-brow Mexican magazine. He didnt write about social problems, he didnt write about the economy. He wrote about what every Mexican could feel, even if you were rich or you were poor.

Mexicans have mourned Juanga in the streets and online since his death, aged 66, on Sunday.

Many told of his importance in their lives, while others spoke of his significance to the nation and to his hometown of Ciudad Jurez, a city plagued by intense drug-related violence.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of his career is vindicating an aesthetic that belonged at the start [of his career] on the margins, Vctor Santana wrote in the online publication Horizontal. For entire generations of Mexicans, Juan Gabriels music meant an authentic sentimental education.

Juan Gabriel performs at Viejas Arena on 6 February 2015 in San Diego, California. Photograph: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Others posted unexpected anecdotes.

When I met Juan Gabriel, he told me that he often read Seneca. He was a stoic romantic, tweeted musician Julieta Venegas.

From the first time I saw him in the early 80s, in the nightclub El Patio, he seduced me, like he did that night to everyone listening with a true fervour, wrote columnist Guadalupe Loaeza in Reforma. What most fascinated me was the response of the men. I saw how they looked at him. They did it with curiosity, but above all with a certain fascination.

Gabriel was believed to be gay, but he never publicly confirmed this, despite attracting hoardes of male fans in a country with a heavy culture of machismo. He once told a television presenter pushing the issue: They say you dont ask about whats obvious.

Juan Gabriel was a true punk, tweeted writer Yuri Herrera. In a country of machos, he danced as he damn well pleased.

Despite widespread adoration, Juanga was known to court controversy, occasionally entering the political fray. In 2000, he propped up the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary party, penning a song for its 2000 election campaign as the country was preparing to cast aside its one-party rule.

His views are expected to become better known in his death. His lawyer told the media that Juanga wrote a letter for her to deliver to the president, telling for the first time how he sees the country.

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