For 45 years Emilio Delgado’s Luis helped welcome children down to Sesame Street. That’s why generations of families are now mourning the loss of one of Sesame Street‘s most beloved figures. Delgado has died at 81. The actor’s wife, Carol, told The Associated Press her husband passed away at their New York home from blood cancer multiple myeloma. Doctors first diagnosed him with the disease in 2020.
Born in 1940 in Calexico, California, Delgado grew up in nearby Mexicali, Mexico. As a child he decided to become a performer, acting and singing whenever he could. As a young adult, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career. His life, and the lives of countless children, forever changed when Sesame Street producers cold called him to audition for the show.
He joined the cast as Luis Rodriguez in 1971, during Sesame Street‘s third season. Delgado then convinced producers to let him use Spanish words and phrases on the show. He would continue to do so until he left the seminal series in 2016. At the time of his departure he held the record for “longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series,” according to Sesame Workshop. He still remained a part of the Sesame Street family after his departure. In a 2019 video celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary, he talked about how nervous he was his first day filming.
Delgado knew how important it was for him to offer a positive portrayal of Latinos on TV. In 2021, he told the Famous Cast Words YouTube series that “most of the roles that I went out for were either for bandits or gang members.” Which he refused to play. The show that made him an important part of kids’ lives and an important part of the history of Latino stars on television remembered Delgado for his warmth and for what he meant to Mexican Americans.
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.— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) March 11, 2022
Delgado’s career also involved guest stints on TV shows, including Lou Grant, Falcon Crest, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. But fans will always remember him for making Sesame Street that much more brilliant.