02 May 2015 ~ 1 Comentario

Don Francisco and Mario Kreutzberger

by Carlos Alberto Montaner

Don Francisco

The only D. Francisco in Latin America was the host of Sábado Gigante, until Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio took that name when he assumed the Papacy. Now there are two.

Chilean-born Mario Kreutzberger is known by everyone in Latin America as “Don Francisco from Sábado Gigante,” the television program that has been on screen the longest of any show in the world’s history of that ubiquitous invention — 53 years. It seems that, finally, as everything else in this life, it will soon go off the air.

Mr. Kreutzberger did well by adopting a simple and sticky stage name. That paternal surname wouldn’t have made it easy for him to become the most successful host in Spanish-language television. Nevertheless, that surname, buried under the weight of the pseudonym he chose, perhaps explains partially another essential facet of this very admired artist: his intense philanthropic bent.

I explain. His father was a corpulent, hard-working German who saved himself by a hair from the Holocaust. He escaped from a concentration camp and, after a thousand adventures, arrived in Chile penniless, like so many other Jews who managed to escape from the Nazi barbarity.

Shortly after arriving in his new adoptive country, he had his first son, Mario, to whom he taught a double loyalty: be a good Chilean and also a good Jew, which means, beyond the religious liturgy, a certain degree of social responsibility in a community that judges and appreciates people for what they give to others.

According to the most reliable surveys made in the United States — where everything is measured and quantified — the most generous ethnic group, the one that donates the most money, the one that devotes most time to help others in voluntary work, is the Jewish community. Why? First, because compassion and solidarity are part of the best Jewish tradition, values inherited by the best Christian tradition.

In fact, if Christianity managed to root itself in the Roman world, it wasn’t because of abstruse theological discussions, not even by the presumption that the Messiah had been born among the Jews, but because Jews buried the dead, cured the ailing, consoled the widows, educated the children, and protected slaves and women.

Christianity imposed itself because of everything it retained from the Jewish ethic, as befitted a religion born in a synagogue. In its origin (and even today, to a certain degree), it was a society for support and mutual aid in hard times that managed to take root inside the perimeter of the Roman Empire, practicing everything that Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mountain.

There were 1,500 bishops and 12 percent of the world’s inhabitants (about 6 million out of a total 50 million) were linked to Christianity when Constantine in the early Fourth Century with the Edict of Milan, and later Theodosius, made that faith the Empire’s official religion and declared (Theodosius) “insane and wicked” anyone who did not subordinate himself to the religious authority of the Patriarch of Antioch.

When Mario Kreutzberger peeked into the homes of his compatriots, singing, laughing and even dancing, in his hours-long Saturday morning show, he was a poor young man who could only contribute his talent. By 1978, however, he had become Don Francisco, had triumphed and found the right moment to launch Telethons and collect money to build hospitals to rehabilitate sick children.

Since then, over several decades, Mario-Don Francisco and his small band of brotherly folks have collected $286 million and now support 13 very useful hospitals in Chile that serve the least affluent young people in that country.

It’s not just a question of Judeo-Christian ethics. Psychology and sociology have taught us that social recognition is one of the greatest incentives that people have to act in one direction or another. That mechanism arises and takes hold in the bosom of the family. We want to please our parents and teachers, that’s why we behave well.

Later, that training extends when we seek the appreciation of the community in which we live. We want their admiration. True, some people do good anonymously, but few are content with the personal and secret satisfaction of helping to explain their actions.

In any case, the question is not why the Jewish ethnicity is the most supportive but why, in accordance with the same U.S. measurements, Hispanics, Afro-Americans and Asians don’t feel the same urgency to help others.

That’s a good topic to open a debate on philanthropy. 

One Response to “Don Francisco and Mario Kreutzberger”

  1. Tiberio Faria 5 May 2015 at 11:37 am Permalink

    La primera frase del 4to parrafo de este interesante articulo (como todo lo que escribe CA, tiene un pequeño gazapo en la version inglesa,
    aunque en el español CA dice “Explico”, la forma coloquial de decir eso mismo en ingles, deberia ser ” Let me explain”.
    Hago esta observacion pues cuando la lei en ingles, me parecio raro, pero al leer la version original, me di cuenta de que lo que paso, y como soy traductor, pense en comentarselo al autor.
    Felicitaciones a CA, como siempre con gran insight hacia asuntos importantes, o por lo menos, interesantes
    Tiberio Faria

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