Over the weekend, two wholesome powerhouses of children’s educational entertainment came together for a meeting that melted hearts, brought back fond memories, and renewed our hope for empathy between nations.
Sesame Street’s popular yellow giant, Big Bird, who recently appeared at San Diego Comic Con to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, hung out with his Mexican primo, Abelardo Montoya, a colorful parrot loved by anyone who watched Plaza Sésamo, the Spanish-language version of the legendary program, growing up.
It all started last week, on July 30, when Abelardo’s Twitter account announced that he would be traveling to Los Angeles to visit Big Bird. The account then documented his trip as part of a publicity campaign in partnership with Mexican airline Aeromexico.
Once Aberlardo arrived in California the tweets reached peak adorableness. Abelardo and Big Bird took photos by the Hollywood sign, visited the Walk of Fame, had birdseed milkshakes and went to the beach. Their fun was documented on both of their Twitter accounts, and is nothing short of an injection of joy in these dark times. The material was shot as part of the Sesame Street Road Trip, which has taken many of the characters across the country and will be used for Sesame Street’s 50th season.
“We live in different places, but families are always together in our hearts,” Big Bird said in one of his posts. To which Abelardo replied with his own message, “We are so far away from each other, but we have so many things in common.”
Their loving message of unity across borders speaks volumes at a time when hatred toward the Latino population in the United States has evolved from dangerous rhetoric to a threat to our lives. Though this appearance by fictional characters may seem superficial when thinking about major issues, the impact it can have on young children, and maybe even adults, across the country and beyond is immeasurable. Latinos are portrayed here as part of the same family, and not as enemies.
Personally, it was surprising to learn that Abelardo is acknowledged in the Sesame Street canon as Big Bird’s Mexican cousin. When I posted this discovery on my Twitter, it became clear that many others were positively shocked and moved by this information.
For U.S. Latinos, who were raised watching both the English-language show on PBS and Plaza Sésamo on Univision, seeing Big Bird and Abelardo come together represented a synergy between their two identities and a testament to the beauty of being bilingual.
Among them was actor and comedian Cristela Alonzo, who retweeted my post and spoke about feeling lucky to have been able to enjoy both versions as a child. “Kids take being bilingual for granted because we’re never told how special it is,” she added.
As my tweet made the rounds and more voices joined the conversation, other users pointed out previous encounters between the feathered icons (and also chatted about the names Aberlardo went by decades ago).
It turns out that in a 1997 episode of Sesame Street timed for Cinco de Mayo, Abelardo traveled from Mexico City to visit Big Bird. The plot sees the two birds trying to find each other after Oscar the Grouch picks Abelardo up from the airport without telling anyone on Sesame Street, and features a heartwarming song in English and Spanish about how much they want to be together. It’s truly special.
Over at Plaza Sésamo, there was an episode in which Abelardo writes a letter to Big Bird. Neither of them knows how to write yet, so they send each other notes with drawings that describe what they are doing, which means it doesn’t matter that they don’t speak the same language.
The cousins also appeared together in 2013 at Parque Plaza Sesamo, a theme park in Monterrey, Mexico dedicated to the series, when Big Bird visited and Abelardo welcomed him with a big event.
For some who grew up in the ’80s and early’ 90s, Abelardo was known as Montoya and had a deeper voice. Before the beloved parrot came into existence, Plaza Sésamo featured a dragon named Abelardo, so as a nod to that earlier character from the ’70s, the show re-named the large bird Abelardo Montoya, combining both his original name and that of the retired creature.
Here are some of the best reactions to this revelation, and for some reminders, of the beautiful relationship between Abelardo and Big Bird.