Emilio Delgado, Long-Time Sesame Street Star, Dies at 81

Emilio Delgado, the actor best known for is 40-year stint portraying Luis on Sesame Street, has reportedly passed away at the age of 81. The news was broken by Delgado's wife, Carol, who revealed to TMZ that he passed away surrounded by at his home in New York on Thursday, March 10th. Delgado had been diagnosed with Multiple myeloma in December of 2020, and had reportedly recently been in hospice care.

Born in Calexico, California on May 8, 1940, Delgado became interested in acting and the performing arts in high school. Delgado began acting professionally in 1968, becoming a major figure in the California theatre scene. His first onscreen role was in 1968's Canción de la Raza, and he would go on to join the cast of Angie's Garage, a children's series geared towards Mexican-American children. Just a year later, Delgado was brought on for the third season of Sesame Street, in hopes of increasing the diversity onscreen and helping the young viewers learn Spanish. Delgado's role, which was the first human addition to the original cast, was as Luis Rodriguez, the owner of Sesame Street's repair store, named "The Fix-It Shop".

Delgado's portrayal of Luis became a staple of Sesame Street, with the character even getting engaged and married to Maria (Sonia Manzano) in a storyline during the show's nineteenth season in 1988. 

"Up until that time, the inclusion of people of color on television was very minimal," Delgado explained in a 2021 interview with SamTweedle.com. "There was some success in integration on some of the networks, but there was not a concerted effort to go out and find people of color to be on shows. So, when it came around that time that Sesame Street happened, the people who created the show were very liberal and saw that there was a need for inclusion, and especially for children. Initially, Sesame Street was directed at African American kids in a neighborhood in New York, and from there it spread across the country. It was one of the first television shows, and especially children's shows, which showed people of all different colors and backgrounds together on television. Sesame Street was like an explosion of culture. The show was created by Joan Ganz Cooney, and then there was John Stone who was the producer, writer and director on the show, and who was the main person who wanted to show inclusion on the street. He wanted to make it a neighborhood with all types of people living together with different colors and languages and who dressed in different ways, which was being broadcast to children, who are seeing the world the way that it was."

Outside of Sesame Street, Delgado continued to act in theater and on screen, with a notable recurring role on Lou Grant, and appearances on The Get Down, House of Cards, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He also lent his voice to the video games Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption II. He also had a penchant for music, performing with the band Pink Martini.

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In addition to acting, Delgado was known for his humanitarian work, with himself and Carol serving on the Board of Directors for the LGBTQ+ activism center Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. He also served as the coordinator of the Children's Television Workshop's Bilingual Task Force, 

Our thoughts are with Delgado's family, friends, and fans at this time.