Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

He's glad immigration agents didn't ask 'how to get to Sesame Street'



Poor Big Bird. You can't even get a birdseed milkshake without bumping into the underground economy.
Poor Big Bird. You can't even get a birdseed milkshake without bumping into the underground economy.
Photo by EvelynGiggles/Flickr (Creative Commons)

I don't usually resort to Spanish in this blog, but I had to after reading this story. ¡Dios mío! Actor and playwright Carlo Alban has written a confessional essay that, um, redefines the concept of hiding in plain sight. One might call it hiding behind Big Bird's feathers.

In his essay for Fox News Latino, Alban writes that in 1993, when he was 14, he landed a role on Sesame Street that lasted five years. His character, also named Carlo, worked at Mr. Hooper’s store, where he whipped up a birdseed milkshake for Big Bird. Alban writes:

But the whole time, I had a secret: I was an undocumented immigrant. The papers I’d used to get hired were fake.

My family had come from Ecuador when I was seven and my older brother Angelo was nine. We came on a tourist visa, and the moment my parents had gotten it, we knew we were not coming back. They sold all our furniture before we left.

My mother had a sister living legally in the United States, and my parents planned to have her sponsor us for residency. Soon after landing in New York, my parents saw a lawyer. But we were told the process would take four or five years.


He and his family eventually adjusted their status, but it took 12 years. Alban writes that he fell into acting after trying out for a community production of "Oliver!" at age 11 and landing the lead role, a development that "horrified" his under-the-radar parents. He looks back fondly on his Sesame Street experience, but "at the same time, it ratcheted up the fear of being found out."

Not sure what this means for the rest of the characters. Hopefully Rosita, she of the seafoam green fur and the Spanish accent, has her papers in order.