August 26, 2019
"Sesame Street" actress Sonia Manzano had a difficult childhood that has a significant influence on who she is today.
The name Sonia Manzano may not ring a bell, not because most people don't know who she is, but because most are familiar with her stage name. Manzano played Maria on "Sesame Street" as a kid.
As Maria, Manzano guided Big Bird, Elmo and the rest of the gang through life lessons on the infamous show. After over four decades, she announced her departure from the show in 2015, but her love for helping and inspiring kids continues.
Unfortunately, Sonia's childhood wasn't as cozy as showed on camera, and she shared a lot about it in her memoir, "Becoming Maria;" an inspirational book meant for teens and adults.
In the book, the actress told the story of how she faired as a young girl in a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx in the '50s and '60s.
In an interview with NPR's David Greene, Manzano revealed that her father was violent towards her mother and during his tantrums, her brothers would find a place to hide, but she would try to intervene.
"I found myself always being in the middle of them trying to protect her," she says.
According to Sonia's report, her mother tried to hide the truth from her and her siblings, but it never seemed to work since they were all witnesses to the cruel act.
"She would discreetly put the knives in the oven and I'd say, "Why are you putting the knives in the oven, Mom?" And she'd say, "Oh, no reason at all." But as a kid, I'm thinking, are we going to get hurt? Is there a possibility that he's going to use the knives? So it was all this kind of confusing take on what was going on," the actress said.
Upon realizing that she knew of the abuse, the actress's mother tried to explain the reason behind her father's behavior to her. She would tell the actress her father's drinking problem is as a result of the hard life he lived during his childhood.
During an American Library Association Conference appearance in June, Manzano spoke about her memoir,
"I'm hoping that they [kids] see that they can make something out of any life. I didn't become Maria in spite of my childhood. I became Maria because of my childhood. Any life is worthwhile, and you can make something out of it."
Sharing such a tough time in her life must have taken a lot of strength which seems to be what Manzano is preaching to the younger generation; strength can come from the pains that didn't break you.