This Beloved Resident Is Leaving Sesame Street

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
After 45 years on Sesame Street, one of the show's most beloved residents is leaving the neighborhood. Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria for over four decades, made the announcement at the American Library Association Annual Conference. The ALAA spread the news on its Twitter account. "After 45 years on Sesame Street, @SoniaMManzano will no longer appear on the next season."

Fans immediately began tweeting tributes to Manzano, who played an important and formative role in countless childhoods during her years on Sesame Street. She, and her television husband Luis, run the street's Fix-It Shop. Maria's journey on the show has closely mirrored that of Manzano's own life. When Manzano married her husband Richard Reagan, her character married Luis. Shortly after, Manzano told Sesame producers she wanted to have children, so Luis and Maria welcomed their daughter Gabriela.

The actress started on Sesame Street in 1972. At the time, she was one of the first Hispanic actors on television. "I'm Puerto Rican, born in New York, watched a lot of television in the fifties...never saw anybody who looked like me on television, and thereby began to feel invisible. If you're not reflected in society, you begin to feel invisible, and I wondered how I was going to contribute to a society that didn't see me. Sesame Street sort of does that for kids. Everyone's reflected on the show."

In addition to her work in front of the camera on the show, Manzano won 15 Emmys for her writing on Sesame Street. She helped make every day in the neighborhood beautiful and swept those clouds away. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, which goes behind the scenes of her early years, comes out in August.

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