Like most men my age, I have to say that I number among my early crushes Sesame Street's "Maria", played by actress and author Sonia Manzano (in the interest of full disclosure, there were quite a bunch of foxy children's television personalities back then, such as Carole and Paula, who I have had the privilege of meeting).
At any rate, Sonia Manzano is retiring after forty-four years of teaching children basic reading and arithmetic, in English and in Spanish. More importantly, she has garnered numerous Emmy awards for writing and is active in cultural and philanthropic organizations. As a cast member of Sesame Street, Ms. Manzano was a highly visible example of a smart, successful Latina living in a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood (hey, they even had a bunch of funny monsters living there). As the show developed, it transitioned from teaching young children the basic skills they need to succeed scholastically, to taking on issues like racism and bereavement. The show also had, in retrospect, a certain, shall we say, sultriness:
For the record, the Muppet Show, which didn't make a pretense of educational content, also had content aimed at "mature" audiences, but I digress.
Back to Sonia Manzano... I have come to appreciate her for her Bronx boosterism, such as her many years as a Bronx River Alliance supporter. She's the local girl who made good, but never forgot her roots, and dedicated herself to helping the neighborhood, much like the beloved character she played.
Looking back at old Sesame Street clips, it's fun to see that Ms Manzano grew up with us, starting as a twenty-one year old "young adult" and making the important life transitions- getting a job, getting married (not to be confused with the other Bronx Maria's Wedding), having a child, and growing into a healthy, respectable maturity. It's been a privilege to watch Ms Manzano grow up, even as she helped countless kids grow up. She deserves to enjoy her retirement, but the neighborhood won't be the same without her.