Television

En La Escena / On The Scene spoke to one of the most iconic Latinas in television history.

Jun 3, 2017 | Featured, News/Noticias | 0 comments

As children growing up watching “Maria” on Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano made learning fun before we started school. She was engaging, fun-loving and taught us about culture.  She also happened to look like us, which at the time, was groundbreaking.  She pioneered the way for positive role models on Television.

 
Recently the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose honored Sonia Manzano with the 2017 Legacy for Children Award.
 
Here’s what she had to say to En La Escena/On The Scene:
 
Reporting by Yesenia De Avila
 
 
En La Escena/ On The Scene:
You’ve been an iconic figure on TV representing people of color since before it was popular.  How do you feel about our representation on TV programming in current times? Has it gotten better or is there still a ways to go?

Sonia Manzano:
When I was growing up there were zero people of color on television.  I myself was shocked and intrigued when I saw Susan and Gordon on Sesame Street in 1969.   Representation has certainly gotten better, but it has a long way to go. It would help if more people of color were creating the programming. 
 
 
En La Escena/On The Scene:

You are being honored by the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose- What does it mean to you to continue to be recognized for your trajectory of work?

Sonia Manzano:

In today’s difficult political climate I make the most of it.  Even as we strive to present the multi-cultural America we live in, in movies and on television, I was disappointed to read in the NYTimes that the White House has taken down its Spanish language web-page.  People of good will, will have to redouble their efforts to create an inclusive society.

En La Escena/On The Scene:
Do you have any special memories of visiting the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose?
 
Sonia Manzano:
 

I haven’t visited the museum yet.  I am anxious to see it because I am helping the effort to create a Bronx Children’s Museum in New York City.  The Bronx has the most underserved children in the city, and a museum is desperately needed there.

But museums are needed for all children.  In today’s atmosphere of testing children before they discover thinking,  museums might be the only place for them to fantasize and reflect and use their imaginations.

 
En La Escena/On The Scene:
What words of inspiration do you have for multicultural children that long to see themselves in positive stories on TV and film?

Sonia Manzano:
They should know there there are many people devoted to bringing multi-cultural stories to the forefront.  And that, if they have an inclination to, they should write down their stories themselves.
 
 
We also had an opportunity to speak to Marilee Jennings,  the Executive Director of the  Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose  about why Sonia was chosen.  Here’s what she had to say:
 
En La Escena/On The Scene:
Why was Sonia Manzano selected as the recipient of the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose award?
 
Marliee Jennings:
 
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose presents the Legacy for Children award annually to an individual or organization dedicated to advancing the learning and lives of children.  Sesame Street legend Sonia Manzano was selected as the 2017 awardee in recognition of the impact she had in her 44-years playing the role of Maria.  
 
Sonia’s remarkable ability to help children develop social and emotional skills like empathy, compassion and acceptance resonates with the work we do in helping children foster these critical skills. Her work in early childhood education has changed the lives of generations of children and parents, so she is emblematic of what it truly means to have created a legacy for children.
 
As a trusted adult, one of Manzano’s greatest contributions as Maria was helping children better understand themselves and make sense of the world.  
 
She was also one of television’s first Latina women in a leading role and this award will honor this groundbreaking work, as well as her impact as a role model for young people of all backgrounds to aspire and dream beyond their own neighborhoods.  
 
En La Escena/On The Scene:
What initiatives do you have that focus on the Latino community of San Jose?
 
Marilee Jennings:
 
Serving an audience that reflects the demographics of our community is a high service priority each year, and San Jose is 33% Latino. To attract, welcome and serve Latino families from throughout our region, we offer unique interactive exhibits and programs that engage children’s hands and minds which incorporate cultural touchstones for relevance.  Whether Latino children are exploring the shape of the circle in the Secrets of Circles exhibit by watching the circular motion of a Flamenco dancer’s dress, making dolls from cornhusks in the traditional Mexican way, or practicing using a molinillo to whisk chocolate in the World Market exhibit, they are finding representations of their cultural heritage and traditions in the experiences throughout the Museum.  Their parents are recognizing those too and appreciate the signage presented in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
The Museum also hosts a weekend-long celebration honoring Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos each year with youth Mariachi and Folklorico performances scheduled throughout the day, special tastes of Rosca de Reyes bread, and opportunities to engage in Mexican arts and crafts, such as papel picado. As the only celebration of its kind in the area, the event attracts over 5,000 children and families annually.
To reach Latino families in the neighborhood surrounding the museum, largely new immigrants from Mexico, the Museum hosts bi-monthly Lunadas Familiares on the Saturday night closest to the full moon.  The Museum opens its doors free to the community on those evenings and provides performances and an open-mic in keeping with the tradition of these celebrations in Latin communities around the world. 
 
En La Escena/ On The Scene:
What kind of experience can children expect from visiting the Children’s Discovery Museum?
 
Marliee Jennings:
 
Upon entering our iconic purple museum, children take the lead exploring, tinkering, testing and discovering the world by playing with the more than 150 exhibits grounded in the sciences, the humanities, performing arts, and health. Visitors of all ages can blow iridescent bubbles of many shapes and sizes in the Bubbles exhibit, send a colorful ball soaring through the air atop a jet of water in WaterWays, make a “good impression” at the popular Pinscreen, show their pumping power at the Treadle, and dig for bones and fossils like a paleontologist in Mammoth Discovery! 
Children role play preparing and serving healthy meals to their parents in Rainbow Market, and being fireman and woman by climbing aboard a real fire engine and donning a coat and helmet. Many fanciful designs are created on faces in the Face Painting room along with personal masterpieces in the Art Loft. 
Our youngest visitors can snuggle with a puppet and a good book in The Forest, experiment in The Sand Laboratory, create masterpieces in the Art Studio, and step inside a child-sized kaleidoscope in The Wonder Cabinet exhibit, a hands-on environment for children ages 0 – 4, rich in materials and textures that inspire the youngest of imaginations. 
These are a few of the many interactive exhibits that spark curiosity and a sense of wonder through self-directed play.  Children own and direct their experiences here at the museum and I’m inspired every day when I’m on the floor witnessing children having fun – knowing that they’re also learning at the same time. 

Manzano, shown above with Rosita — a bilingual Muppet from Mexico — recently announced that she will be retiring from Sesame Street after 44 ye




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