Ep. 13 Sonia Manzano Part 2 – The South Bronx

Tunshore Long Artwork for Sonia Manzano

Emmy-winning writer and actress Sonia Manzano, who played “Maria” on Sesame Street for more than 40 years, talks to host Kevin Burke about growing up in the South Bronx and how she draws on the “love and chaos” of her childhood to teach children—something she’s still doing through her new animated series for PBS Kids, Alma’s Way.

Filmed in Manhattan and Queens, Sesame Street wasn’t that far from Sonia’s own hometown in New York City. Sesame Street is a fictional place that evokes city life from the stoop to the subway and apartments above stores. But Sonia grew up in the very real place of the South Bronx—most vividly on Third Avenue near Crotona Park. How different was Sonia’s New York from the one she helped to create as Maria? On our TVs, Sonia gave us something we needed: a feeling of love and safety, empathy and imagination. Where did she find these things when she was a kid?

This is a two-part episode. In the first part, Sonia takes us from the world of Sesame Street—actually, her audition—back to her beginnings in the South Bronx. And in part two, she explains how she got from the Bronx to Sesame Street and lived a second childhood as an adult with experiences to share. So, “come and play” and “sweep the clouds away” – by listening to one of the truest teachers you’ll find in New York or any hometown.

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