Sesame Street has paid tribute to “beloved” actor Emilio Delgado, known by the show’s fans as Fix-it Shop owner Luis Rodriguez, following his death at the age of 81.
Delgado played the role for 45 years, joining the children’s series as Luis in its third season in 1971.
His wife, Carol Delgado, told the Associated Press news agency that he died from the blood cancer multiple myeloma at their home in New York.
Paying tribute, the show said his “warmth and humour invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations”.
The Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, said in a tribute: “Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of Emilio Delgado, known the world over for his role as Luis on Sesame Street.
“A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humour invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations.
“At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the ‘record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series’.
“We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world.”
‘There really wasn’t any representation of actual people’
Delgado was born in 1940 in Calexico, California, near the US-Mexico border, and moved to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming an actor.
As Luis, Delgado got to play an ordinary, non-stereotypical Latino character at a time when such depictions were rare on TV.
But Sesame Street featured a diverse cast of adults and children, along with Jim Henson’s much-loved creations Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo and Grover.
“There really wasn’t any representation of actual people,” Delgado said in an interview on the YouTube series Famous Cast Words in 2021. “Most of the roles that I went out for were either for bandits or gang members.”
Delgado said producers embraced his suggestion to include a few Spanish words in his dialogue – including “pajaro”, for Big Bird.
Luis married Sesame Street’s other prominent Latin star, Maria Figueroa, played by Sonia Manzano, in a ceremony broadcast in 1988.
After a brief break from the programme in that same year, Delgado returned and continued to star until 2016.
He continued appearing with the cast at public events after his departure and returned for Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2019.