Maria Figueroa first appeared on Sesame Street in 1971, arriving on the street as a Puerto Rican teenager and taking a job at the Sesame Street Library. The library was later converted into the Fix-It Shop, where Maria was hired in Episode 0832 (and later promoted to full partner in Episode 1563).
Maria often mediates disputes amongst the Muppet characters, sometimes becoming flustered by their chaotic nature. She has been the target of the Amazing Mumford's magic, Sonny Friendly's ridiculous traveling game shows, 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."
In June 2015, Manzano announced her retirement from Sesame Street, making Season 45 the last to feature Maria as a recurring character. Manzano reprised the role in the 2019 special Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration and in the 2020 CNN town hall special Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism.
- A passing reference was made in "The Cursed Prince" to Maria taking karate lessons uptown.
- As of 1973 (as seen in Episode 0536), Maria lived in an apartment in 123 Sesame Street in the back corner of the second floor facing the arbor. Buffy and her family would typically stay with her during their visits to Sesame Street. Later, when she and Luis were wed, Luis moved into her apartment.
- Dancer and actress Carla Pinza appeared in a few episodes of Season 2, as a Puerto Rican resident of Sesame Street named Maria. Only one of this character's two episodes survives.
- 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)
- Bert's New Collection (1988)
- Oh, I Am So Embarrassed! (1988)
- I Can't Wait Until Christmas (1989)
- Elmo Saves Christmas (1997)
- Sesame Street comic book Issue #1 (2013)
- Other illustrated appearances