Emilio Delgado, Luis on Sesame Street for 45 Years, Dead at 81

Emilio Delgado. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The Fix-it Shop has finally closed. Emilio Delgado, who portrayed singing shop owner Luis Rodriguez, died in New York on Thursday. He was 81. Delgado battled the blood cancer multiple myeloma for two years. As one of the non-Muppet residents of Sesame Street, Delgado spent more than four decades on the children’s show from his debut in 1971 until 2016. He holds the record for the longest running role for a Mexican American actor in a television show. Delgado spent his life championing less stereotypical portrayals of Latino actors onscreen. Delgado and Sonia Manzano, who played his Sesame Street wife, Maria, were some of the first Hispanic actors to launch into mainstream pop culture. Their story lines explored themes of love and family, instilling life lessons to the children who watched the show in addition to showcasing diversity.

“That’s why Sesame Street was such a good thing. For the first time on television, they showed Latinos as real human beings,” Delgado told the Houston Chronicle in 2020. “We weren’t dope addicts. We weren’t maids or prostitutes, which were the way we were being shown in television in film. Here, on Sesame Street, there were different people who spoke different languages and ate interesting foods, and they were all Americans.”

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, posted a tribute to the actor. “A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations,” it reads in part.

In addition to Sesame Street, Delgado acted in House of Cards, Hawaii Five-O, and Octavio Solis’s theatrical spin on Don Quixote at the California Shakespeare Theater. As seen in his role as Luis, Delgado was a seasoned singer; he harbored a passion for music all his life, which led him to perform at famed venues including the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall. In 2019, then-Mayor Bill De Blasio honored his impact with the creation of Emilio Delgado Day, which is celebrated October 15.

Emilio Delgado, Luis on Sesame Street, Dead at 81