Emilio Delgado, Actor Who Played Luis on 'Sesame Street' for 45 Years, Dead at 81

"Emilio proudly laid claim to the 'record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series,' " a rep for Sesame Street tells PEOPLE in a statement

Emilio Delgado
Photo: PBS/courtesy Everett Collection

Emilio Delgado, who played Fix-it Shop owner Luis Rodriguez on Sesame Street for 45 years, has died. He was 81.

The Mexican-American actor was surrounded by family when he died Thursday at his home in New York City, his wife Carole Delgado told TMZ. Emilio had recently been in hospice care after he was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in December 2020.

"A beloved member of the Sesame family for over 50 years, his warmth and humor invited children to share a friendship that has echoed through generations," a rep for Sesame Street shares in a statement to PEOPLE.

"At the forefront of representation, Emilio proudly laid claim to the 'record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.' We are so grateful he shared his talents with us and with the world."

Emilio Delgado
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Born May 8, 1940, in Calexico, California, Emilio spent his early childhood living with his grandparents just across the border in Mexicali, Mexico. He made his onscreen debut in 1968 with the Emmy Award-winning Canción de la Raza, the first Mexican-American soap opera.

Emilio joined Sesame Street as Luis in 1971 and, with the exception of a brief hiatus in 1988, remained on the show until 2016. He continued appearing with the show's cast at public events and returned for Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2019.

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The actor's credits also include episodes of Hawaii Five-0, Falcon Crest, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, House of Cards and The Get Down.

Emilio's legacy also includes years of work as a Chicano rights activist, fighting for social and racial justice. He was part of the United Farm Workers led by César Chávez, and he participated in protests against the Vietnam War, according to the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, for which he served on the Board of Directors.

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"We are heartbroken by the loss of our beloved friend & @RustinCenter Board Member Emilio Delgado @EmilioDelgado58," the Rustin Center shared in a statement on Twitter. "We send our love to his wife Carole & his family which truly included us all. He will be missed but his spirit, energy, & kindness remains with us '¡Pa'lante!' "

Emilio is survived by his wife Carole, his son Aram and daughter Lauren.

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