Sabado Gigante, the longest running variety show in television history which has influenced Latin Americans across borders and generations, ended Saturday night after 53 years on air.
Mario Kreutzberger, better known as “Don Francisco,” closed his final show after 2765 weeks of uninterrupted entertainment that bridged audiences from Chile to the United States for more than half a century, turning Sabado Gigante into an emblem of Latino pop culture.
Not only that, but the show, which included a mix of live performances, interviews, contests and family reunions, also earned a Guinness Record for the longest running variety show in television history with a religious viewership of 2 million people each Saturday.
According to Univision’s data, which hosts the show, it is also the most watched program among Latin Americans between 18 and 49 years old across the 43 countries where it is aired.
“It is in the homes of so many Hispanics that Don Francisco has established roots and where, as of today, a void is left, like when someone close departs,” wrote Carmen Graciela Díaz for Univision about the tradition that watching Sabado Gigante became for many Latin Americans.
“For years, visiting my grandparents on a Saturday evening meant sitting down to watch Don Francisco. He was one more in that small living room where I sat down to laugh with ‘La Cuatro’ – interpreted by Gloria Benavides – or ‘El Chacal de la Trompeta,’ or better yet, to listen my grandfather laugh boisterously,” she added.
While the last Sabado Gigante followed its usual programming, major Latin American pop artists, including Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Daddy Yankee and Gloria Estefan, made appearances on the show to give their official goodbye.
For many Latino artists, Sabado Gigante was the platform that received them before their rise to fame.
Daddy Yankee told Billboard that “Don Francisco was the first person who gave me a shot on national television. I’ll always be indebted to him. His contribution to – and influence in – the Latino community has no limit. He is an example and a true leader.”
Saturdays won't ever be the same again �� thank you so much for all the smiles and laughs throughout the years. #SGHastaSiempre— *Marg* (@ItsMargMayhem) September 20, 2015
U.S. President Barack, First Lady Michelle Obama, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also made their appearances with a video message honoring the show’s legacy and its ending.
Before Gloria and Emilio Estefan closed off the show with a song especially composed as tribute to Sabado Gigante, Mario Kreutzberger gave his final words: “Life continues, and that is why I only want to tell you Sabado Gigante, hasta siempre!”
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