Sesame Street is losing one of the neighborhood’s longtime residents. Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on the PBS show, is retiring after 45 years. Manzano, 65, revealed her retirement earlier this week at the annual conference of the American Library Association, which tweeted the news. Manzano retweeted the announcement and thanked her supporters but said “don’t be bummed!”
— American Libraries (@amlibraries) June 29, 2015
Manzano, who shared 15 Emmys as one of the writers on Sesame Street, joined the show in 1971 and became a permanent cast member three years later. Her character, Maria, initially played a Puerto Rican teenager working at the neighborhood lending library. Later she moved to the Fix-It Shop alongside Luis, the show’s Mexican-American handyman. The characters later married and had a child, Gabi, who was initially played by Manzano’s daughter Gabriela.
Born in a Puerto Rican neighborhood of The Bronx, Manzano attended Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts then Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She began her show business career in the original cast of Godspell, which began as a student production on the Carnegie Mellon campus. She moved with the production to a club in Greenwich Village, then to Off Broadway and later to Broadway.
Confirming Manzano’s retirement, Sesame Workshop said “She will always be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood. During her 44-year career as the iconic Maria, and the first leading Latina woman on television, she was a role model for young girls and women for generations.”
Sesame Workshop did not say how her absence would be explained to its young viewers.