It's time to say 'goodbye' to one of Sesame Street's favourite characters.

It’s hard to imagine Sesame Street without it’s long-time resident Maria however the show must go on.

After 44 years Sonia Manzano – who has played Maria since 1971 – has decided it is time to move on. She announced her retirement just days ago at the American Library Association Annual Conference.

Together with husband Luis, Maria ran Sesame Street's Fix-it Shop. The actress says she'd been thinking of retiring for several years and wants to devote all her time to writing books.

Fans have taken to social media to express their sadness and admiration for Manzano, numbering in the hundreds and flooding Twitter and Facebook.

Sesame Street released the following statement via Facebook.

Sonia Manzano has announced her retirement from Sesame Street, but she will always be a part of the fabric of our neighborhood. During her 44-year career as the iconic “Maria,” and the first leading Latina woman on television, she was a role model for young girls and women for generations. Sonia’s talents on Sesame Street extend beyond her groundbreaking role on camera; she also earned 15 Emmy awards as a member of Sesame Street’s writing team. We’ll always be grateful for her many years on Sesame Street as a champion of diversity and helping millions of kids grow up smarter, stronger and kinder.

After announcing her retirement, Manzano, 65, took some time to explain why Sesame Street was so important to her for so long, and for millions of children around the world. "Our first target audience were the children in the inner city that were undeserved," she explained. "And we thought that if they could learn their basic cognitive skills, they could start kindergarten on an even level with their middle-class peers."

Manzano started playing Maria when she was just 21. She not only became one of the street's favourite residents, she also won a whopping 15 Emmy Awards for her work as a writer on the show. Maria always taught us about the important things.

Remember when Maria taught us all about going to hospital...

Remember when Maria showed us how fun a sleep over can be...

Remember when Maria needed to call a locksmith...

Remember when Maria fell in love...

And who can forget one of the many times she tried to help Oscar the Grouch...

She says it's hard to pick just one show that is her favourite, although she always loved working with Oscar the Grouch. She told E! News, "Seriously, Muppets are the heart and soul of the show and I will miss performing with them," she said. "So often we laughed so hard we could hardly get words out! I will particularly miss my relationship with Oscar the Grouch!"

However while Manzano won't be filming any new scenes for the upcoming season, Maria will still appear via the many shows she has recorded over the years. The actress has also hinted that she will return for the show's 50th anniversary in 2019.

Manzano lives in New York with her husband Richard Reagan, whom she married in 1986. She has one child, a daughter named Gabriella. Her biography Becoming Maria: Love and chaos in the south Bronx is due out in August.

Who is your favourite Sesame Street character? Do your kids watch the show?

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