Don Francisco at Latin Billboard Awards in Miami
photo: Adria Valdes Greenhauff, Vivala

During my career in media, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview a handful of influential individuals — from Rosario Dawson to Dolores Huerta — each one leaving me with his or her own little nugget of inspiration. To get starstruck or overly excited about meeting someone has never been in my nature. But that all changed the day I met Don Francisco.

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To understand my love for Sábado Gigante is to understand my childhood to its very core. Growing up in a house with my grandparents in Miami, Sábado Gigante was the event to look forward to each week, and Don Francisco was like another member of our family, right up there next to Walter Mercado.  

Laughing along with La Cuatro and El Chacal de la Trompeta while watching episodes of Sábado Gigante with my grandparents on Saturday nights was everything. The entire show not only gave us something to bond over, it also brought me closer to the Latino culture, not to mention practice my Spanish — a skill that’s become more valuable to me in my adulthood than I ever imagined. 

So what the heck finally happened when I met Don Francisco? Did I cry, scream, pass out? Relax, tan poco asi. But I did experience a level of giddiness that has been unmatched by meeting anyone else thus far. It was even more exciting than that one time I literally ran into Pitbull at a Miami Beach nightclub, nearly spilling my drink all over his sweaty linen shirt.

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Here’s how it all went down with Don F.

I was at a press conference for the Latin Billboard Awards in Miami, prepping possible questions for a few acts that were scheduled to come out and talk to the group of journalists in attendance, when they announced it: 

Don Francisco would be the next celeb to take the stage. So cool, I thought to myself. This would be the perfect photo op for my abuela.

I quickly jotted down a question to ask if called on and waited for him to make an appearance.

When Don Francisco finally took the stage, it was hard to believe my favorite TV host from childhood was standing just a few feet away from me. It didn’t feel real, but more like staring at a really good quality TV or maybe even a hologram. All of a sudden, I was the excited six-year-old girl in my grandmother’s living room. His very presence left me in a trance, just staring while internally screaming, "I love you!" 

While fighting the urge to completely fan girl out, I did muster up enough coherence to ask my question — his professional plans now that Sábado Gigante is over, in case you were interested — but the rest of the experience was a bit of a hazy blur, and probably involved a lot of me creepily staring at him in awe.

Don Francisco may never know how much he actually means to my family and I, but meeting him in person was an unexpected opportunity that I won’t soon forget. I also managed to snap a decent photo of him, which my abuela was really excited about.