The Mexican government said it planned to digitalize and preserve more than 1 million negatives belonging to photojournalist Hector Garcia, who died over the weekend at the age of 88.

Garcia, who immortalized famous figures such as Frida Kahlo and David Alfaro Siqueiros but also cabaret dancers, laborers, peasants, street kids and humble people of Mexico, received a bittersweet tribute Sunday at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts.

National Culture and Arts Council, or Conaculta, president Consuelo Saizar praised the enormous value of the deceased's work.

"Garcia photographed the soul of Mexico. In his book 'Pata de perro' there is a ... photo of the wake for Frida Kahlo that shows the value Mexico gives to its artists, in the same place where today we bid him farewell," Saizar said.

Garcia, who died on Saturday of heart problems, "created images" with which millions of Mexicans grew up, making them "residents of his aesthetics" in which he resorted to art "to capture reality," Saizar said.

Maria, his widow, and Hector Garcia Sanchez, his son, as well as other people close to the photographer, were present when Saizar announced that Conaculta will collaborate in the project of digitizing and preserving the photographic heritage in the custody of the gallery-foundation that bears his name.

Garcia Sanchez emphasized that his father always "sought the extraordinary in daily life with his work. "I remember him as happy and interested in art in all its manifestations. He collected everything, friends in particular," he said.

He mentioned that the major challenge that is approaching now is "to find a vault that can safeguard his (photographic) legacy."

Garcia's widow said that "so far, 4,000 negatives have been digitized ... (but) more than a million in black and white, color and slides that he worked on during more than 60 years" still remain.

"One percent of his material is known. There are images of marches, conflicts, artists, painters, film, of everything, the construction of highways, works from Europe, Japan and Latin America," Maria said.

Photographer Marco Antonio Cruz, for his part, said that his friend Garcia left an intricate body of work with an enormous social commitment and with which he contributed to building Mexico's memory.

"His images are icons of the cultural, artistic and political life of the country. The work of Mexican photographers is joined with links that have their origin in the work of other artists, like that of Manuel Alvarez Bravo and in which Garcia was a very important piece," Cruz said.

Although Garcia's wish was to be buried standing up in a mausoleum at Xochimilco, south of the capital, and with a little window in his casket "so that I can continue seeing the city," his widow said, this request will not be fulfilled and he will be interred at the gallery-foundation that bears his name.

Garcia won numerous awards, prizes and honors for his work over the course of his lengthy and prolific career.

His images filled the annals of public collections in Paris, Washington, Houston and were included in the Vatican Museum and the Mexico City National Anthropology Museum, among others. EFE