EFENew York

The iconic Latin American television personality Don Francisco now has a street named after him in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, where hundreds of fans of the popular Chilean TV host gathered Tuesday out of gratitude and affection.

Don Francisco Boulevard is the name by which 168th Street and Broadway will be known in Upper Manhattan, home to the Dominican community in New York that on Tuesday, together with other Latinos, filled the square and paid tribute to the host of Univision's "Sabado Gigante," whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger.

"I represent a team of excellent professionals who prepare 'Sabado Gigante' with me every week. For us it's an honor that people know us, they appreciate us, that Washington Heights has given us its recognition," said the show host, who launched the program 53 years ago in Chile.

Greeted with applause on his New York street by fans who called out his name and never stopped taking pictures, Don Francisco recalled that the final episode of "Sabado Gigante," the longest-running variety show in TV history, is set to air Sept. 19.

The Chilean said he will continue working in television, "which has been the passion of my life," because "I have a lot of ideas."

Among the crowd who gathered for Tuesday's ceremony was Amparo Sanchez, a Colombian woman who said that watching "Sabado Gigante" is like "a therapy" for her and that she owes Don Francisco her house in Colombia.

"I was on the show in 2007, they awarded me the automobile and at the end they told me that I could either take the car or take the cash." She chose the latter and invested the $17,500 in a house, she recounted.

Also at the event was Elvira Rodriguez from Peru, who told EFE that she owes her second marriage to Don Francisco's program, because it got her back together again with her first love from long ago in her homeland, where her mother broke them up because she opposed the relationship.

"His parents sent him to study in Argentina. He got married, and so did I," she said, adding that three decades later and with both of them divorced, she found him on Facebook.

"My daughter wrote to the program. They took me from New York and him from Argentina," and after that meeting they married, said Rodriguez, who was carrying a poster with the message "Thank you for so many years of smiles and good humor."

Don Francisco Boulevard, an initiative of Univision and the city government, joins the other streets in the Big Apple named after celebrities or police fallen in the line of duty.