Sesame Street will never be the same again.
Sonia Monzano, who played Maria on the popular children’s TV show Sesame Street for almost 45 years, announced her retirement at the American Library Association Annual Conference this past week.
— American Libraries (@amlibraries) June 29, 2015
Following the announcement, Sesame Workshop (the production company behind Sesame Street) released a statement thanking Monzano.
“We’ll always be grateful for her many years on Sesame Street as a champion of diversity and helping millions of kids grow up smarter, stronger and kinder.”
Social media was awash with messages by Monzano’s fans, who thanked her for enlightening more than a generation of kids and introducing them to different cultures and languages.
— Sonia Manzano (@SoniaMManzano) July 1, 2015
Manzano, whose parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico, was one of the first Hispanics to feature regularly on national television. According to a report published in the Washington Post, when Monzano auditioned for the role in 1971, she was a 22-year-old drama student at Carnegie Mellon University, studying on scholarship. She was cast as Maria Figueroa, a teenager who had a part-time job at the local library. Three years later, she became a permanent fixture on Sesame Street when she moved to the Fix-It Shop alongside Luis (played by Emilio Delgado), the show’s Mexican-American handyman. Maria’s subsequent marriage to Luis was a Sesame Street milestone.
In an interview with Yahoo! News in 2013, Sonia Monzano spoke about American society’s changing perceptions at the time of her joining Sesame Street.
“The country was an exciting place. Everything was changing. And the curriculum goal at that time was children should know that Latins live in America, and Latin children should be proud of their culture because Latins were completely invisible in the media. And so Sesame Street was trying to remedy that situation by having a diverse cast.”
In 1981, Sonia Monzano began writing for Sesame Street. In a writing career that now spans well over three decades, she has a whopping 15 Emmy Awards to her credit, making Monzano one of the most successful TV writers in the business. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, is slated for a release in August this year.
Now that Sonia Monzano has moved on, adult fans of Sesame Street will eagerly anticipate the next newcomer to fill her illustrious boots. But Maria’s younger fans may have a harder time dealing with her absence.
The question remains: how will the writers of Sesame Street write Maria off the show? Presumably, her husband, Luis, and daughter, Gabi, will still feature in episodes of Sesame Street, so it will be interesting to see how the writers handle the absence of their respective wife and mother.
“How do you solve a problem like Maria?” – The Sesame Street Writers Room
— Krister Rollins (@KristerR) July 7, 2015
[Photo: George De Sota / Getty Images]