‘Sesame Street’ Has a Latino Executive Producer For the First Time in Its 53-Year-History
“Sesame Street” has long been at the forefront of diversity. From their colorful cast of Muppets to their equally colorful cast of human actors, the legendary PBS show knows that educating children on inclusivity starts at a young age.
Who could forget trailblazing characters like Maria Rodriguez played by Boricua actress Sonia Manzano? Or the loveable blue Mexican-American Muppet Rosita who speaks Spanglish and loves to play the guitar?
And while in-front of the camera, “Sesame Street” has been a maverick of on-screen representation, the show is making strides to improve diversity behind-the-scenes as well.
Last Thursday, “Sesame Street” announced that they just hired Mexican-American Sal Perez as executive producer of “Sesame Street” production — the first Latinx person ever to hold the title.
“Sal is a strong leader and an incredible collaborator with invaluable production expertise and a deep love for all things Sesame,” said Sesame Workshop Executive Vice President of Creative and Production, Kay Wilson Stallings in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with him and tapping his global perspective as we plan the future of the ‘Sesame Street’ brand, helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder in our increasingly connected world.”
In an exclusive conversation with mitú, Perez shared that this role was a dream come true — one that he never thought was in the cards for him as a child of immigrants.
“In its long history, ‘Sesame Street’ has only had a handful of executive producers… as a kid, I never thought someone like me could grow up to join that very short list,” he said.
He went on to explain how, like many first generation children, “Sesame Street” was a pillar of his childhood education.
“Like a lot of first generation Mexican Americans, TV played a huge role in my upbringing,” he said. “Yo crecí con Sesame Street y Plaza Sésamo. I’d watch Grover do his classic ‘Near and Far’ skit in English on one, and then watch him do ‘Cerca y Lejos’ on the other. I’d never experienced a show that spoke so directly to the two cultures I was living in. Now, as a parent, I’m getting to share those memories with my Mexican American two-year-old — she’s already a huge fan.”
The move to hire Perez doesn’t seem to be accidental. Before he took on this role, a large part of Perez’s career was devoted to integrating Latino-ness into the “Sesame Street” brand.
Considering that, since 2018, over one in four newborns in the U.S. are Latino, it makes sense that “Sesame Street” would tap a Latino producer to create content for the newest generation of children considering that this generation will be more Latino than any generation to precede it.
Sal Perez began his career as a producer at “Plaza Sésamo,” the Mexican co-production of “Sesame Street.” He also produced Spanish-language series “Sesame Amigos” for Univision in the U.S.
For his part, Perez has big plans for the future of “Sesame Street,” sharing that, “looking to the future, [he] plans to continue ‘Sesame Street’s’ long legacy of on-camera representation, and develop it even further behind the camera too.”
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