It's the end of an era for Sesame Street: Sonia Manzano—Maria for more than four decades—is retiring from the beloved children's program.
News of Manzano's departure arrived in the form of a tweet by the American Libararies Association, after she appeared at their annual conference earlier this week.
"After 45 years on Sesame Street, @SoniaMManzano will no longer appear on the next season," the tweet reads.
"Sonia Manzano has announced her retirement from Sesame Street, but she will always be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood," Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "During her 44-year career as the iconic 'Maria,' and the first leading Latina woman on television, she was a role model for young girls and women for generations. Sonia's talents on Sesame Street extend beyond her groundbreaking role on camera; she also earned 15 Emmy awards as a member of Sesame Street's writing team. We'll always be grateful for her many years on Sesame Street as a champion of diversity and helping millions of kids grow up smarter, stronger and kinder."
Manzano has been consoling fans on Twitter, even suggesting that she could return at some point.
"Maybe I'll go back for 50th anniversary and make a guest appearance!" she said in response to one fan. She also admitted that she has always been in love with Oscar the Grouch and asked fans not to be bummed about the news, which is probably going to be harder to do than it sounds.
Manzano joined the cast of Sesame Street in 1971, playing a then-teenaged Maria. The character went on to co-own the Fix-It Shop with husband Luis (Emilio Delgado). Over the course of her tenure on the series as a writer and actress, Manzano has won 15 Emmys.
Her other credits include the original off-Broadway production of Godspell and outside of Sesame Street she recurs on Law and Order: SVU as Judge Gloria Pepitone. Her kids book, The Lowdown on the High Bridge, will be released this summer. Her autobiography, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South of Bronx, is also due out this summer.
It may be the end of an era, but it's the "beginning of new endeavors," according to one tweet from Manzano.
Thanks for everything, Maria.