The News
Monday 24 of June 2024

Barbara Franco Came to Mexico for Vacation and Stayed for Love


Barbara Franco, executive director of the American Benevolent Society in Mexico City and volunteer extraordinaire, shows off her calendar for the month of July, when she was on vacation,photo: The News/Sandra Constantine
Barbara Franco, executive director of the American Benevolent Society in Mexico City and volunteer extraordinaire, shows off her calendar for the month of July, when she was on vacation,photo: The News/Sandra Constantine
Franco enjoys helping the people who come to the American Benevolent Society with problems

LA CHILANGA BANDA

MEXICO CITY – Barbara Franco came to vacation in Mexico City in 1966 because she could not afford Europe.

“What I could afford was Mexico,” the executive director of the American Benevolent Society (ABS) said during a recent interview at the society’s headquarters on the second floor of Union Church at Paseo de la Reforma 1870 in Lomas de Chapultepec.

Little did she know she would be swept off her feet by a 35-year-old photographer-archaeologist by the name of Enrique Franco Torrijos.

“I came on a Saturday and I met my husband three days later. He asked me to marry him 10 days later and we got married three months later,” she said.

Franco met her husband-to-be while attending an English-Spanish conversation club meeting recommended by her roommate from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

“He took over my vacation and he took over my life,” she said.

Evidently, that was a good thing as later this year the couple will celebrate their 50th anniversary. They also have two grown daughters, Jennifer and Stephanie.

But Barbara’s romance is not the only thing that kept her in Mexico. After the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) she had a paid gig for about seven years with a company that helped U.S. citizens relocating to Mexico adjust to their new environment.

“My basic philosophy in life is that you say ‘yes,’” she said. “Opportunities came to me.”

Very active in the U.S. expat community for many years, Barbara served as treasurer of the ABS and ran it for a year as a volunteer, after which she was hired for pay. That was about 10 years ago.

Her favorite part of her job at the ABS is never knowing who is going to walk through the organization’s door. Between its 14,000-grave-site American Cemetery, its used and new book store Caza Libros at the church and memberships, the organization supports itself well enough to touch the lives of thousands of people a year, according to Barbara. Founded in 1868, the organization helps U.S. citizens and other people in need.

“We help people who have found themselves in circumstances they did not anticipate,” she said.

Recent cases have been a quadriplegic veteran who had his government disability check discontinued and a woman who was found in front of an apartment building not knowing who or where she was. The only clue to the woman’s identity was the ABS membership card she had with her. The agency helped the woman, who is in her seventies, get treatment for the early stages of senility.

In the case of the veteran, the society paid for an airline ticket back to the United States so he could get assistance from the government there.

Some of the society’s clients are people who did not make good decisions about their later years.

“Their money lasts longer, the climate is good and they don’t need heating,” she said, enumerating the reasons many U.S. citizens come south of the border to live in Mexico.

THE NEWS