Meet Alan Franco: A salsa instructor who reunited with a lost love over Facebook
Accents: The voices of our immigrant neighbors in the Berkshires
PITTSFIELD — They fell in love through their letters; old-fashioned, handwritten envelope-with-stamp snail mail letters. But it took 14 years before the internet sealed the deal.
Alan Franco, from Mexico City, and Melissa Schermerhorn, from the Berkshires hilltown of Peru, met in 1994 in the Cozumel tourist resort where he worked. Franco was an entertainment director and dance instructor at the beach hotel.
“And she was there with her mom and her brother,” Franco says in his Berkshire Salsa dance studio in the Crawford Square Building on North Street in Pittsfield. “She was there for a week. We clicked … But obviously, she had to go back to the Berkshires.”
An eight-month-long correspondence between Mexico and the Berkshires followed. Their romance brought them back together when Alan secured a job for Melissa in his hotel. She joined him there, and they lived happily ever after.
Except that they didn’t.
At least not then.
“The idea was for her to come back to the Berkshires, take care of her tax returns, credit cards, all that financial fun stuff that she had to clear before she moved to Mexico for good,” Franco says.
“But then we lost touch.”
Life in two different countries caught up with them. And when he heard some time later that she had gotten married, “That’s where I drew my line.”
All contact ceased.
Franco kept leading entertainment programs at beach resorts in Mexico and other warm weather countries such as the Dominican Republic. He had always loved dancing. Already as a teenager he became a sought after quinceañera-coach. In the ‘Accents’ podcast on berkshireeagle.com he describes how that started with him teaching his 15-year-old cousin Julieta in Mexico City the traditional Viennese waltz that’s part of all “quinceañera” (sweet 15) celebrations.
He was always good with languages, too. He grew up in a suburban area of Mexico City where some people still spoke Nahuatl, the Aztec-language. Alan’s father, Victor Franco, who runs a restaurant in Puebla, Mexico, tells the story of his son at just 5 years old pronouncing certain Spanish words with the rolling r’s of an American accent.
Franco was teaching English in Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Baja California on Mexico’s west coast in 2008 when Melissa found him again.
A totally different way of communicating for them, but still romantic.
“She had been divorced for a few years when we reconnected,” Franco says. “She visited Cabo San Lucas a few times, and then in 2010 I moved [to the Berkshires].
“And now altogether we have seven children. Because she had two before -- Selena and Christian -- and I had two before -- Alan Jr. and Melanie -- and now we have three together: Dante, Mathias and Zyanya.”
They first settled in Dalton and now live in Pittsfield, near Onota Lake. His first plan was to work as a bilingual language teacher here, similar to his last job in Mexico.
“But once I came here I realized that was not the case, this is not the same market,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur you have to have a good network and here I was, new; I knew nobody.”
“Everything really exploded” for him, Franco says, when he discovered and joined the local business referral group Berkshire Business Builders.
He has an IT-degree from the University of Guadalajara. He has his passion for dance. Jobs in both areas materialized, including digital marketing work for Berkshire Christian School and teaching salsa dancing to staff at Williams College as part of their wellness program.
And now Franco, 45, runs his own dance studio. Soon to be expanded, he hopes, with Berkshire Salsa Café — “a Latin café/lounge area” — in an adjacent Crawford Square storefront space.
“The next week is going to be critical for that,” he says. “Because that’s when we’re going to see if it’s approved financially.”
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