Sona Manzano as Maria for Sesame Street

Sonia Manzano has played Maria on “Sesame Street” since its premiere in 1971, when she was just 21 years old. But after 45 seasons, she is not returning for Season 46.

The announcement came during her address at the American Library Association Annual Conference Monday (June 29). It was then tweeted by the ALAAC official Twitter account and what followed was an outpouring of her fans expressing their dismay and thanking Manzano for her years of wonderful children’s programming.

Manzano responded to several of her fans on her own Twitter account, telling one, “Maybe I’ll go back for 50th anniversary and make a guest appearance!”

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“[Sonia Manzano] will always be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood,” says the “Sesame Street” workshop in a statement to Zap2it. “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.

“Sonia’s talents on ‘Sesame Street’ extend beyond her groundbreaking role on camera; she also earned 15 Emmy awards as a member of ‘Sesame Street’s’ writing team. We’ll always be grateful for her many years on ‘Sesame Street’ as a champion of diversity and helping millions of kids grow up smarter, stronger and kinder.”

PBS also put together a “Best of Maria” playlist on YouTube, which is featured below.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."