Sonia Manzano who portrayed Maria on ‘Sesame Street’ since the 1970s is retiring after 45 years. The actress’ surprise announcement at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference has gone viral. Her character is so much a part of popular culture with more than two generations having grown up with Maria Figueroa-Rodriguez alongside the Muppets.

Sonia Manzano

Photo: Sonia Manzano
Credit: PR Photos

Yes, a surprise indeed. The announcement was the midst of the 65-year-old actress’ appearance at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference where she gave a talk and spoke about her new memoir, “Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx.” You can see video highlights below.

She also answered questions about her life in television, in general and her 44 years on the iconic PBS children’s program ‘Sesame Street.’ She had been with the show since virtually its beginning alongside all of the Muppets, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Cookie Monster, Elmo Ernie and Burt and all the rest.

She first began appearing periodically in 1971 and was made a regular cast member in 1974. She portrayed Maria for all those years alongside Emilio Delgado who portrayed her husband Luis Rodriguez on the show. The two ran a literal Mom-and-Pop shop, called the Fix-It Shop.

She was a trailblazer as one of few Latinos in television in the 1970s. She was also one of the show’s writers and all of her impressive 15 Daytime Emmy Awards were for her work as a writer, although she was also nominated as an actress on the series.

Nowadays social media is often where we get our news, and in this case, the ALA Tweeted the news (below). This led immediately to the say-it-ain’t so chorus both on Twitter and now throughout social media and major media. It will be hard to imagine Sesame Street without her.

At the ALA, as you will see in the video below, she spoke about her own passion for books and libraries and of her character Maria who was first seen on the show working in the library, years before her eventual marriage on the show to Luis. She said of books and their importance for children, “The last place to imagine is in the books that librarians give them. Reading books is the only time right answers are not required.”

Watch the video below of Sesame Street’s Sonia Manzano at the ALA conference.