Feb 10, 2022 - World

Sesame Street gets its first-ever Latino executive producer

Sesame Street's Big Bird stands to the left of  his Mexican cousin, Abelardo Montoya, on the sand at the beach
Big Bird and his Mexican cousin, Abelardo Montoya. Photo: Janet Kim for Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street's decades-long presence on both sides of the border has come full circle with a Mexican American executive producer at the helm for its new season.

Why it matters: Sal Perez is the first Latino to serve in that role, although people of color have had a huge influence for years. The show is in production for its 53rd season.

The big picture: Perez was named executive producer in January after over a decade of producing bilingual projects for Latin America at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that makes all Sesame-related products.

  • “I grew up with Sesame Street and Plaza Sésamo,” Perez told Axios Latino. “I’m first generation Mexican American, and those shows portrayed my family’s two cultures like nothing else on children’s television at the time.”
  • “That experience has stayed with me throughout and I want to bring a global perspective to everything we do.”

The Mexican version, Plaza Sésamo, was among the show's first exports, although Sesame Street was in roughly 20 countries by the mid 2000s.

  • Plaza Sésamo first aired in 1972, three years after Sesame Street’s debut.
  • Big Bird’s counterpart in Mexico is Abelardo Montoya, a lime-green parrot with pink and orange on his face.

Plaza Sésamo has another notable difference — its opening song. It doesn’t ask how to get to Sesame Street, instead telling kids: “Come play, come sing, whether you’re from here or from there.”

Fun fact: There are two Plaza Sésamo-themed amusement parks in Mexico, in Monterrey and Guadalajara.

  • The show has also been heavily involved in health, safety and educational initiatives in Latin America.

Flashback: Sonia Manzano, who played María Figueroa on Sesame Street from 1971 to 2015, was one of the first Latinas on American television.

  • She was accompanied by Emilio Delgado, who played Maria's husband, Luis Rodríguez, along with their fictional TV daughter, Gabriela.

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