Saturday, June 14, 2008

Maria first appeared on Sesame Street in 1971 and has been a staple of the series ever since. Maria Figueroa arrived on Sesame Street as a Puerto Rican teenager, taking a job at the Sesame Street Library. The library was later converted into the Fix-It Shop, where Maria was hired as Luis' helper. Luis promoted her to full partner in Episode 1563.

Maria often mediates disputes amongst the Muppet characters but is sometimes more easily flustered by them than, say, Susan. She frequently serves as the target of the Amazing Mumford's magic and the cynical wisecracks of Oscar the Grouch, who has been known to address her with the nickname "Skinny."

For a number of seasons, Maria also appeared regularly in pantomime skits as Charlie Chaplin.

Although she held a romantic relationship with David for a time in the 1970s, she married Luis in 1988, becoming Maria Rodriguez. Her mother came over from Puerto Rico for the ceremony. Later, Maria's pregnancy became a storyline on the show, and Maria and Luis had a daughter, Gabi, in 1989.

For several years, Maria and Luis ran the Fix-It Shop together, where they repaired an assortment of items, including a vast number of toasters. In 2002 they converted the store to the Mail It Shop, only to revert it back to the Fix-It Shop in 2006.

Maria and her Sesame Street friends visited her family in Puerto Rico in 1979, for the first few episodes of Season 11.

Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano (born December 6, 1950) is an American actress and writer. She is best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street since 1970. She also licenses her image to promote items of baby clothes and plates in Hispanic America.

Sonia Manzano is a first-generation American of Latino descent who has affected the lives of millions of parent's and children since the 1970s, when she was offered an opportunity play "Maria" on Sesame Street.
Sonia was raised in the South Bronx where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress.

A scholarship took her to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show "Godspell." Within a year Sonia joined the production of "Sesame Street" where she eventually began writing scripts. Sonia has won 15 Emmy Awards in that capacity.

Sonia has performed on the New York stage, in the critically acclaimed theater pieces "Vagina Monologues" and "The Exonerated." She has written for the Peabody Award winning children's series, "Little Bill," and has written a parenting column for the Sesame Workshop web site called "Talking Outloud" which can be visited at

Sonia's children's book, "No Dogs Allowed," published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing in 2004, was one of five books selected by the General Mills initiative "Spoonfuls of Stories." As part of that effort, Sonia worked with General Mills and its nonprofit partner, First Book, to encourage children to read and to help get books to children across the country. In the fall of 2005, General Mills gave away a total of one million copies of "No Dogs Allowed."

Sonia has received awards from the Association of Hispanic Arts, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington DC, The National Hispanic Media Coalition, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families and Hispanic Heritage Award for Education in 2003. She received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Nortre Dame University in 2005. Closer to home she is proud to have been inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame in 2004.

She was twice nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. She has served on the March of Dimes Board, and the board of the George Foster Peabody Awards and the board of Symphony Space, well known for it's Literary Shorts series on NPR.

Manzano has a licensing company called "The Three Amigas."

A second children's book "A Box Full of Kittens" will be out in June 2007. Sonia resides in the Upper West Side with her husband and daughter and is currently working on a memoir

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