Manzano’s gift to us, the power of her presence, lies in the fullness of Maria’s humanity. While still being proudly brown and representing Nuyorican excellence in all its glory, Maria never became a caricature, never boxed herself into the facile images of Latinos that American television sometimes still offers up. She slipped easily in and out of Spanish and English, celebrated her culture lovingly, became a feminist, worked as a repair woman, got married and had a baby, and, perhaps most importantly, aged – all before our eyes. She doesn’t ham at the camera or condescend to the kids and muppets: theirs is a relationship of mutual respect and admiration.
Daniel Jose Older on Sesame Street‘s Maria and Latino identity.