For the past five decades, children have come to love Maria on Sesame Street whose calming and sometimes silly presence has reassured Muppets and friends alike. Now, Sonia Manzano, the actress who has played her since 1971, has announced her retirement.

While speaking to the American Library Association, Manzano said she wouldn't be appearing on the new Sesame Street season.

The Sesame Workshop released a statement:

Sonia Manzano has announced her retirement from Sesame Street, but she will always be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood. 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.

The Times notes

, "Her character, Maria, first arrived on the show’s titular street as a Puerto Rican teenager working at the lending library. She eventually moved on to the Fix-It Shop alongside Luis, the show’s Mexican-American handyman. The characters later married and had a child, Gabi, who was initially played by Ms. Manzano’s daughter Gabriela."

Some great Maria clips:

And here's an interview with her about how Maria's life mirrored Manzano's own: