“If you don’t know yourself, you can’t participate,” said actress and television writer Sonia Manzano as she said goodbye to “Sesame Street,” where she played the character of Maria for more than forty years.
Now, PBS Kids and Fred Rogers Productions will bring the story of this iconic Puerto Rican to the small screen in the new series “Alma’s Way,” which will air on October 4.
Set in the Bronx, the animated series was created by Manzano, and the original song is written and produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bill Sherman.
Inspired by Manzano’s own childhood, “Alma’s Way” centers on Alma Rivera, a proud and confident 6-year-old Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx with her family among a diverse group of close-knit friends and community members. Infused with Manzano’s humor and grounded in a social and emotional curriculum, the series will give children ages 4-6 the tools to find their own answers, express what they think and feel, and recognize and respect the unique perspective of others.
“I am so excited to be working with PBS KIDS and Fred Rogers Productions to introduce Alma, a strong and positive Puerto Rican girl who will empower young viewers,” said Manzano. “Alma’s way is to think things through, and we hope the new series will show kids that their thought processes are valid and give them the confidence to think critically.”
As PBS explained in a press release, in each episode, Alma speaks directly to young viewers with her comments and her moments of reflection, in which she pauses, thinks, and processes. She is a model of optimism and determination, demonstrating that she can solve a problem if she puts her mind to it.
Similarly, each episode showcases different aspects of Latino cultures through language, food, music, and customs. All viewers will see how other families are similar to and different from their own. Also, music is the “beat” of the series. It includes traditional Puerto Rican styles such as plena, bomba, and salsa and other Latin genres such as Cuban son and Colombian cumbia.
“Alma’s Way” seems to be the consecration of the career of a pioneer in Latin representation.
Sonia Manzano was born in Linwood, New Jersey, to Puerto Rican parents and, like Alma, grew up in the Bronx. In addition to her 44 years on “Sesame Street,” Manzano made a name for herself on the New York theater stage in acclaimed plays such as “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Exonerated.”
Manzano later wrote for the children’s series “Little Bill,” and her children’s book No Dogs Allowed, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2004, is one of five books selected by General Mills’ “Spoonfuls of Stories” initiative to introduce children to literature.