You might not know Emilio Delgado’s name, but if you were one of the millions of children who has grown up watching “Sesame Street,” you’d recognize him in a heartbeat. Better known to many as his longtime character on the show, Luis from the Fix It Shop, Delgado died on March 10.
The New York Times reported that the actor died at his home in Manhattan of multiple myeloma, which he had battled since December 2020. He was 81 years old.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show, tweeted a photo of the late member of its “Sesame Street” family with a two-part message.
“Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of Emilio Delgado, known the world over for his role as Luis on ‘Sesame Street,'” the organization tweeted. “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.”
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 humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations.
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) March 11, 2022
“At the forefront of representation,” the post continued, “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.”
PBS, the network that Sesame Street has called home since its 1969 premiere, also shared its condolences.
“Emilio Delgado, who for 45 years was a warm and familiar presence in children’s lives, and a rare Latino face on American TV as fix-it shop owner Luis on “Sesame Street,” died Thursday,” PBS tweeted.
Emilio Delgado, who for 45 years was a warm and familiar presence in children’s lives, and a rare Latino face on American TV as fix-it shop owner Luis on “Sesame Street,” died Thursday. (From @NewsHour) https://t.co/iSUPHQXRiv
— PBS (@PBS) March 11, 2022
According to Sesame Workshop, he hailed from the California city of Calexico, which is on the border with Mexico. Delgado joined the cast of “Sesame Street” in 1971, the same year that Sonia Manzano, who played Luis’ wife, Maria, debuted. He played the owner of the Fix It Shop on the beloved educational children’s show for 44 years, leaving in 2016 when the show did not renew his contract.
He also acted in primetime shows like “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Lou Grant,” keeping a recurring role on the latter series.
He was also the coordinator of the Workshop’s Bilingual Talk Force and was vital in adding bilingual content to the program.
“The first time that I saw Big Bird walk on, my line was, ‘Big Bird!’ But I didn’t say ‘Big Bird,’ I said, ‘pájaro!'” Delgado said in a 2021 interview. After explaining to producers that “pájaro” meant “bird,” they decided to go with it. “I called him ‘pájaro’ from then on every time I saw him,” Delgado shared.
His influence as a prominent Latino actor on a major American series was such that Oct. 15, 2019, was dubbed Emilio Delgado Day in New York City by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. The politician called Delgado a “trailblazing Mexican-American artist.”
Delgado is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Carole Delgado, and two children, Lauren and Aram.