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'Sesame Street' Aims To Accurately Portray Latino Culture

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/ 2/2012 1:28 pm Updated: 04/ 2/2012 1:38 pm

Elmo

Looks like Elmo and his fellow muppets may be learning more about Latino culture as "Sesame Street" producers reach out to a broader Latino audience.

Jamie Naidoo, an assistant professor at University of Alabama's School of Library and Information Studies, who's research focuses on the representation of minority populations in print and non-print media, assisted in the show's effort to incorporate accurate portrayals of Latino culture.

“My specific role was to describe how Latinos are represented in children’s print materials, both positive and negative portrayals, and suggest ideas for including Latino cultural content into their various outlets to go along with their new initiative,” Naidoo said according to the Tuscaloosa News.

Naidoo directs the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference, which he co-developed in 2007. He runs “Imagínense Libros!”, a blog which reviews children’s and young adult Latino literature.

Part of the professor's work with "Sesame Street" included revisiting old episodes and giving feedback as to how the show has depicted Latino culture.

"Sesame Street" introduced Rosita, a Hispanic character, in 1993. Rosita, who's full name is Rosita la Monstrua de la Cuevas (Rosita the Monster of the Caves) is originally from Mexico and is the second bilingual character to appear on the show. The first one was Osvaldo the Grouch, Oscar the Grouch's Puerto Rican counterpart.

Professor Naidoo commented on the importance of "Sesame Street" working to better represent the Latino culture in the state of Alabama, home to one of the country's harshest immigration laws: HB56.

The law prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space, among other things.

“The Latino population in the U.S. is rapidly increasing, but our children today, particularly those in Alabama, often encounter negative or stereotypical images of Latinos in media,” Naidoo said to the Tuscaloosa News.

“By working with publishers and TV producers of children’s media to improve their Latino content and appeal to young children, I am providing opportunities for non-Latino children to make intercultural connections with their Latino counterparts,” he said.

This isn't the first time the show has aimed to represent a diverse community.

In early February, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the high court, appeared on a Sesame Street episode and gave her verdict on Goldilocks vs. Baby Bear.

One of the show's co-producers is African American puppeteer Kevin Clash, who is better known as the man behind Elmo. In the film "Being Elmo", which came out last year, Clash recalls being amazed when he first joined the cast of the show that the characters reflected the diversity of his own neighborhood in Baltimore.

Other Latinos who have appeared on the show are singer Juanes, comedian George Lopez, musician Bruno Mars and "Modern Family" favorites Rico Rodriguez and Sofia Vergara.

SEE SESAME STREET 'EVERYWHERE':

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30: Jon Stewart attends the Sesame Street Workshop 10th Annual Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 30, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

  • Rosita

    FILE - This April 11, 2011 file photo, character "Rosita" from Sesame Street gestures during a taping of the show in New York. The popular children's show will hold a casting for a new Latino character on Aug. 20, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • Chairman Of The Joints Chief Of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey Speaks At The Nat'l Press Club

    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey participates in a discussion on supporting Military families during an event sponsored by Sesame Street at the National Press Club, on April 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. It has been reported by the Los Angeles Times that pictures have surfaced showing military soldiers posing with body parts of dead insurgents. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Grover At 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

    LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 10: Sesame Street muppet charachter Grover appears during a presentation by Qualcomm at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at The Venetian on January 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 13 and is expected to feature 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 140,000 attendees. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Fake Cookie Monster At Occupy Wall Street

    A person dressed as the Sesame Street character 'Cookie Monster' join demonstrators with 'Occupy Wall Street' near the New York Stock Exchange as they mark the two month anniversary of the protest November 17, 2011 in New York. Some 1,000 protesters converged on Wall Street Thursday, and fights erupted outside the New York Stock Exchange amid a tense face-off with police. Demonstrators scuffled with men in business suits trying to push their way through the throngs on the way to work at the start of a day of protests in a show of force by the Occupy Wall Street movement. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 35th Anniversary Of Sesame Street

    Children mark the 35th anniversary of Sesame Street flanked by Sesame Street characters Elmo (L), Tommie (2nd R), Bert (2nd L) and Ernie (R) at the Dalton School in Amsterdam, on July 20, 2011. The Sesame Street characters signed a special giant birthday card. This cart will then tour through the Netherlands, so Sesame Street fans from around the country could sign it as well. AFP PHOTO/ANP KIPPA MARCEL ANTONISSE netherlands out - belgium out (Photo credit should read MARCEL ANTONISSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Count and Oscar The Grouch At Packers v Jets

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 31: Fans of the New York Jets dressed up as 'Oscar the Grouch' and 'The Count,' characters from the television show 'Sesame Street,' for the Jets game against the Green Bay Packers on October 31, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Packers defeated the Jets 9 - 0. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

  • With Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden

    NEW YORK - JUNE 02: Vice President Joe Biden (Center) and Dr. Jill Biden attend Sesame Workshop's 8th Annual Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 2, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

  • Elmo With John Legend and Christine Teigen

    NEW YORK - JUNE 02: Musician John Legend and model Christine Teigen attend Sesame Workshop's 8th Annual Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 2, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

  • At The Martin Luther King Day Parade In Washington DC

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: People dressed in Sesame Street and Disney costume march during a Martin Luther King Day parade January 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. The parade of local politicians, civil rights activists, marching bands and others returned to Martin Luther King Avenue Southwest after an eight year hiatus. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • Discussing Tree Planting With Katie Couric

    NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Anchorwoman Katie Couric and Sesame Street Muppets (L-R) Elmo, Jesse and Rosita address an audience and the press before a special tree planting ceremony promoting the launch of the 'When Families Grieve' support group iniative at Madison Square Park on April 8, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • Street Renaming To Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Sesame Street Live

    NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04: Sesame Street characters Bert and Abby Cadabby attend the temporary street renaming to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sesame Street Live on 31st Street & 8th Avenue on February 4, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

  • A group of friends dressed as Sesame Street characters, including Victor Morales, dressed as Big Bird, right, take the 6 train early Tuesday morning Nov. 1, 2011 after attending the Village Halloween Parade in New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

  • In this undated handout photo provided by Sesame Street, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees poses with Sesame Street puppet character 'Elmo' in New York, Brees is making a special appearance on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 episode of the educational children's TV show. He visited the set a few months ago to record the segment, which co-stars the street's furry red resident, Elmo. (AP Photo/ Sesame Street, Jesse Grant)

  • In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, actor Rajai Sandouka, holds Kareem, the main character of Sharaa Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street, at the program's offices in West Bank city of Ramallah. The producers of the iconic children's program say they have been forced to put production for the 2012 season on hold because of a funding freeze by the U.S. Congress. Sharaa Simsim is one of many American-funded Palestinian programs suffering after Congress froze the transfer of nearly $200 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development in October. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

  • Zoleka Mandela, Michael Bloomberg, Zindzi Mandela, Grover

    In this photo provided by the Road Safety Fund, Zoleka Mandela, left, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, and Zindzi Mandela appear with an actor in character as Sesame Street

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