One of Sesame’s Streets most beloved characters and actresses, Sonia Manzano, who worked as ‘Maria’ for 44 years, recently announced her intention to retire from Sesame Street. Born to parents from Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx in New York, Sonia attended the High School of Performing Arts and was noted as one the first Latin Americans to be featured on Sesame Street.
I remember, as a child, watching ‘Maria’ on Sesame Street and thinking that she was a bright, colorful, fun, loving woman. Sesame Street was as much an installation of my childhood as were several other children’s shows.
Sonia auditioned for Sesame Street when she was 21 years old, back in 1971. Her first appearance was in that same year. “I had never seen people of color on television,” Manzano shared in a CBS interview last year. At the American Library Association Annual Conference this year, she also stated “I grew up wondering how I was going to contribute to a society that didn’t see me because I felt invisible somewhat. I mean, I couldn’t articulate that in my brain as a little kid, but that was the sensibility that I had.” For a group of children that felt underrepresented in society, ‘Maria’ was a wonderful example of multiculturalism.
In 1974, Sonia became a permanent member of the cast. I, along with millions of other children, watched Maria grow from a young woman to become a wife and then a mother. The show became family to Sonia in more ways than one as she dated and then married ‘Luis’ who was also her on-screen husband on Sesame Street.
10 years after her first appearance, Sonia began to write for the show. She eventually won 15 Emmy awards for her writing and was nominated twice as a performer. She continued to expand her talent of writing by authoring a children’s series of books called “Mighty Girls” about different cultures and girls from around the world. She has also recently finished a memoir “Becoming Maria” and has written various other stories for children of all ages. (Below are a few links to her books)
Sonia has also performed in Broadway shows and television in other roles, but for most of the country, she will always be remembered as the enthusiastic, colorful, loving woman ‘Maria’. Her contribution as a writer, actress and example to the lives of millions of children will never be fully known, but be assured, she will always be a positive memory of childhood. We look forward to whatever her future endeavors may be and say “Thank you, Maria” for helping each one of us “find our way to Sesame Street.”
“The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” http://www.amightygirl.com/the-revolution-of-evelyn-serrano
“Becoming Maria” http://amzn.to/1H3yI0L
“Mighty Girls” http://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/multicultural-fiction
“Mighty Girls” in Spanish and English http://www.amightygirl.com/books?language=10