Maria first appeared on Sesame Street in 1971 and has been a staple of the series ever since. Maria Figueroa arrived on Sesame Street as a Puerto Rican teenager, taking a job at the Sesame Street Library. The library was later converted into the Fix-It Shop, where Maria was hired as Luis' helper. Luis promoted her to full partner in a 1981 episode.
Maria often mediates disputes amongst the Muppet characters but is sometimes more easily flustered by them than, say, Susan. She frequently serves as the target of the Amazing Mumford's magic and the cynical wisecracks of Oscar the Grouch, who has been known to address her with the nickname "Skinny."
Although she held a romantic relationship with David for a time in the 1970s, she married Luis in 1988, becoming Maria Rodriguez. Her mother came over from Puerto Rico for the ceremony. Later, Maria's pregnancy became a storyline on the show, and Maria and Luis had a daughter, Gabi, in 1989.
For several years, Maria and Luis ran the Fix-It Shop together, where they repaired an assortment of items, including a vast number of toasters. In 2002, they converted the store to the Mail It Shop, only to revert it back to the Fix-It Shop in 2006. When the shop became the Laundromat in 2008, Maria and Luis would still be seen fixing various things around the street until 2011, when Gordon hired Maria to be the superintendent of 123 Sesame Street.
Maria and her Sesame Street friends visited her family in Puerto Rico in 1979, for the first few episodes of Season 11.
Manzano commented in 1987 on how her character had changed since debut: "I wouldn't even tweeze my eyebrows then."
- Big Bird's Busy Book (1975)
- Sesame Street Goes West (1977)
- The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook (1978)
- Fix It, Please (1980)
- The Count Counts a Party (1981)
- I'll Miss You, Mr. Hooper (1984)
- Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street (1985)
- Ernie Gets Lost (1985)
- A Bird's Best Friend (1986)
- I Can't Wait Until Christmas (1989)