It’s truly the end of an era, the legendary Spanish language program Sabado Gigante (SG) is ending its 53 year continuous run, an excellent show that helped unite the Spanish speaking communities in the United States, and was critical to the careers of artists such as Marc Anthony, Lucero, Thalia, Shakira, and countless others. I didn’t grow up with Sabado Gigante like so many people, actually I saw it for the first time in a Mexican restaurant with my wife maybe 7 or 8 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the show.
SG was a great help in developing my understanding of spoken Spanish, as guests on the show were from every country, economic background, and walk of life imaginable. Sabado Gigante originally started in Chile, but was eventually tried out in Miami, for the local market of mostly Cuban immigrants. Mario Kreutzberger, or Don Francisco as he is popularly known, hosted the show with amazing energy and wit, and managed to connect with not just his home audience in Chile and the new audience in Florida, but also with communities throughout the United States like Mexican Americans in California, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York; all through local syndicates before eventually becoming a national (in the US) show and then being exported to the whole Latin American market. The show was culturally relevant to all of these groups, and included artists and music genres from many countries and regions, touching stories of distant families reunited on the show after years apart, and provided a platform for a growing immigrant and linguistic minority population. This platform has helped to bring together a common Latino community in the United States. Now, networks like Univision, Telemundo, and Televisa are all national and rival traditional networks with ratings, especially in the summer season, and have national programming that target the audiences in all of these markets. SG was the pioneer for Spanish language programming in the United States.
We won’t be watching the last program, as we cut our cable about a year ago, but I’ll forever be thankful to the program for helping me with my Spanish, introducing me to many aspects of the Latin American community in the United States and throughout Latin America, for the entertainment, and for making us laugh and cry. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Sabado Gigante and Don Francisco/Mario Kreutzberger, check out the book Entre la Espada y la TV, which is nearly as entertaining as the show!
See clips at gigante.com