How Rosita — and her creator — got to Sesame Street 00:00

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How Rosita — and her creator — got to Sesame Street

Rosita, the bright, fuzzy turquoise muppet from Sesame Street, and its creator, Carmen Osbahr, discuss their journeys and revisit their greatest adventures after nearly 30 seasons on the friendliest block on television.

This piece is used with permission of Latino USA from the Futuro Media Group.

Rosita: I don’t know what’s happening. What’s this? Is this thing on? (tap, tap) Is this thing on? Oh, hi. ¿Cómo estás? Welcome to Sesame Street.

Krysta Rayford: In 1991, a bright fuzzy five-year-old turquoise monster moved from Mexico to the friendliest block on television. When Rosita arrived on Sesame Street she made history as the show’s first full-time Spanish-speaking Muppet. Carmen Osbahr is the puppeteer behind the making of Rosita, and she still plays the Muppet on TV today. Here, Rosita and Carmen reflect on their journeys to Sesame Street and talk about their adventures after almost 30 seasons together.

Rosita: My full name is Rosita La Monstruo de Las Cuevas. Soy originalmente, I’m originally from Mexico and my name is from there. I love music. So I do play the guitar. I love dancing. I like when I have… I’m able to draw, I like drawing. And I like sports.

Sesame Street clip: Song “Me Gusta”

Rosita: Well, I’m five right now, but when I moved here to Sesame Street, I was little. I was… I was so nervous. And I didn’t know if I was going to be able to communicate with everybody because I didn’t know a lot of English. I didn’t know how I was feeling. I had, my belly was… was hurting a little bit. But when I got here, I realized that I, I right away, had friends. 

Sesame Street clip:
Rosita: Today, Elmo and I, we are going to answer the question, what is a friend?
Elmo: Right, you are Rosita! Elmo and Rosita know about friendship because Elmo and Rosita are friends.
Rosita: Yeah, Elmo. 

Rosita: I remember meeting Big Bird and Elmo and Cookie Monster and everybody was just so nice. So I always remember that as my favorite day.

Carmen Osbahr: Yes, when Rosita was introduced on Sesame Street. And you’re gonna think that I’m a little weird, but I’m not sure anymore the year…

Ismael “Mando” Cruz Cordoba, from left, Cookie Monster, Lola, Elmo, Rosita and Raul Gonzalez are seen during Sesame Street’s visit of Univision’s “Despierta America” at Univision Headquarters on July 12, 2013, in Miami. (Photo by Alexander Tamarg for WireImage/Getty Images)

Sesame Street clip:
Man voice: So would you tell me your name again, please?
Rosita: Sure. My name is Rosita La Monstruo de Las Cuevas.
Man voice: Rosita La Monstruo de Las Cuevas.
Rosita: Yeah, yeah.
Man voice: Rosita La Monstruo de Las Cuevas.
Rosita: Oh, yeah you got it. But you can call me Rosita.
Song “I got a friend named Rosita”

Carmen Osbahr: My name is Carmen Osbahr-Vertiz. 

Sesame Street clip: Song “I got a friend named Rosita”

Carmen Osbahr: How I became Rosita? Well, that’s a long story. But I can tell you, you know, I … I’m from Mexico City, and I was working in a company called Televisa, where they do, you know, a lot of television, there in Mexico. And I was doing puppet shows in Mexico on television. So when I heard that they were auditioning, I was really excited, I was able to be invited to observe the puppeteers here in New York. It took me two seconds to realize when I saw them working, that the show was more than a show. They truly believe that children have the right to be children, to laugh, to learn. Children have the right to have an education. And when I started learning all those things, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I… I… I don’t want to go back to, you know, I want to stay here with them. And they need a bilingual character!”

Carmen Osbahr: That was my dream. And I never thought that it will happen. But it did. It took me two years and Jim Henson in those days was around and he hired me. We were in the studio, and he asked me if I wanted it to be part of his family of his Muppet family. And since then, I’m here.

Rosita: My daddy moved here for work, and my mommy too. So I came with them. And then we were missing my Abuela so much, and then she came over. So we’re all together now. But, but you know, when my Daddy had an accident, and now he’s in a wheelchair, so things change at home a little bit…

Sesame Street clip:
Elmo: Rosita, why is your daddy in a wheelchair?
Rosita: Well… remember when I told you that he got hurt?
Elmo: Yeah.
Rosita: Well, ever since then he has needed that thing.

Rosita: We had to learn how to play together because we used to play soccer. And we used to run together, but now he just, he can’t. But we found ways to do different things. And we still have a lot of fun. 

Sesame Street clip:
Dad: You should see my girl throw the ball. She got a good arm. Watch, watch.
Rosita: Are you ready, Papi?

Rosita: Yeah, yeah, sometimes it’s hard. But we’re all — we’re all together and we’re all help each other. 

Sesame Street’s Elmo and Rosita provide commentary during an event to harvest the White House Kitchen Garden with U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Carmen Osbahr: I just hope that what we’re doing — that I’m able to inspire somebody else. So it’s incredibly important for me to know that I’m able to help our little audience somewhere. I might touch somebody with that.

I was introduced to the world of puppetry by mistake. It’s amazing. I have to tell you, because if you interview other puppeteers here, they were born with a puppet in their hands. Really. They knew that they want to be muppeteers, and here and Sesame Street on the Muppets since they were like two or three. In my case, I was an audience of Plaza Sesamo. That is like, the co-production of Sesame Street in Mexico, and is being seen in Mexico, Central, and South America.

And I remember the day that I watched the first episode of the Plaza Sesamo air in Mexico, I think it was 69 or 70. And I was with friends and I was older. I was like eight, nine — so it was like, I was not a young child but I was still a kid. And I loved it. I always follow the Muppets and I always follow Sesame Street and Plaza Sesamo. And when I was in college, I read a note on the board that said “we need people that there are interested in taking a workshop with American puppeteers, because we have everything to do a television show with puppets but we don’t have puppeteers.” So I… I thought, “oh my god, that will be great! I want to see how those things work.” Right? Because I didn’t know if you would wear them or you would put… I didn’t have a clue. So I went to the workshop by curiosity. And probably a week in the workshop I realized that I didn’t want to do anything else, and that.

Sesame Street clip:
Rosita: Here we go. Mi amiguita Rosita, by me — Rosita
Song “I am your amiguita Rosita”

Carmen Osbahr: Rosita is totally Mexican. I mean, like, because I can’t hide that. Right? If I was trying to represent something else, my strong Mexican side of me will… (laughs) … yeah, it will be hard to hide.

Sesame Street clip: Song “I am your amiguita, Rosita”

Rosita: I love to share my heritage with my friends. So first of all, I love teaching them Spanish — little words because it’s difficult. I had problems with English and actually watching, you know, all my friends here on Sesame Street, helped me a lot to learn English. So I’m trying to help them the same way.

Sesame Street clip:
Maria: Oh, Rosita, It’s time to tell everyone the Spanish word of the day?
Rosita: Oh goody! Because there’s some people I want you all to meet. Vamos everybody, come here, vengan todos!
(feet running)
Rosita: Hola! Everybody, I want you to meet mi Papá.
Dad: Hola
Rosita: Mi mamá, mi abuelo, mi abuela, mi tía Mercedes, y mis primos Paco, Pepe, Luis, y Conchita.
Maria: Ah, so that means — the Spanish word of the day must be… familia! 

Rosita: They all know how to say beso, y abrazo. That means kiss and hug.

Carmen Osbahr: It’s always been incredible for me to have the response of families, you know, that they come and they tell me, “Ay, thank you. I was able to see myself in Rosita.” In some shows Rosita deals with — kind of being embarrassed and then realize that everybody is supporting her and say “no all the contrary, you have to be proud. Proud of who you are, proud of where you come from, wherever the country is, whatever the place is.” It’s part of you and you should always be proud of it.

Sesame Street Clip:
Song “I am your amiguita Rosita”
Man: Looks like everyone liked hearing a story about a little Mexican girl just like you.
Rosita: They did, they really did!

Carmen Osbahr: I would love to train somebody to take over Rosita when I… you know, I retire and I will invite you guys, Latinos out there and African Americans, come over, train — we need you. They are missing… We’re missing, you know, Asian puppeteers and Latina puppeteers and if you’re out there and you have a dream, follow it and if your dream is to come to Sesame Street and — and be a muppeteer here — and you’re bilingual, any language that you have, well then come over!

Krysta Rayford: That was Rosita La Monstrua de Las Cuevas, Sesame Street’s first bilingual and Latina muppet, and Carmen Osbahr, the puppeteer who brings this iconic character to life. This piece was originally produced for Latino USA by Alejandra Salazar. For iPondr, I’m Krysta Rayford.

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