Sonia Manzano Remembers Sesame Street Co-Star Emilio Delgado

EMilio Delgado died March 10, aged 81. He was the Fix-It Shop proprietor Luis. Sesame StreetFor more than forty years.

Emilio was my first encounter in late 60s. I assumed he was an activist of the Cesar Chavez Farm Workers Union. He went about pinning for Cesar Chavez Farm Workers Union supporters. Boycott GrapesHe put buttons on every person he met! Ultimately, his social consciousness didn’t end there.

Days later, I realized he was one of us: a child of the ’60s and an actor happy to have a job. His impact on Latino children was something he could never have imagined. Now in his 50s my nephew told me that he wanted to be a man just like Luis as a child. How wonderful that Emilio’s strength, warmth, and kindness were attractive enough for children to want to emulate.

Sesame StreetEmilio, who was himself at the time, has always wanted human cast members to feel their best.

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My character was established in 1988. [Maria]Luis and Luis were married in a highly-viewed onscreen ceremony. Latinos in television at that time were laughable. We were able to show that flesh-and blood Latinos wanted the same things from life as Americans by having our wedding. Love, marry, have children, camp, and send them off to daycare. People thought that we were married because of our strong feelings for one another. And even after correcting a woman once, telling her we were not really married, she quipped, “No worries, as long as you really love each other!”

Emilio placed children first, respected adults, was positive and always stood up for the poor. His son pointed this out to me: At Emilio’s mother’s funeral when all mourners sadly looked down, he looked up. No doubt searching for life’s possibilities. I’ll miss him.

—As told to Sanya Mansoor

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