Danny Trejo ‘Proud’ To Discover Family History That Could Have Set His Life On A Different Path

Jan 31, 2023 by apost team

Danny Trejo is a legendary actor known for his rough and tough exterior, often playing the role of a criminal or outlaw in films. Born in Echo Park, Los Angeles, Trejo had a difficult upbringing, involving drug addiction and multiple stints in prison.

However, Trejo turned his life around and became a drug counselor, using his own experiences to help others overcome addiction. It was through this work that Trejo was introduced to the film industry, where he made his acting debut in 1985's "Runaway Train."

Trejo's tough demeanor and distinctive look quickly caught the attention of filmmakers, leading to numerous roles in action and crime films, such as "Desperado," "Con Air" and "Heat." He has also played recurring characters in popular franchises, including "Machete" and the "Spy Kids" series.

Despite his rough exterior, Trejo is known for his kindness and generosity, often using his fame to support charitable causes and organizations. He is also a passionate supporter of animal rights, owning a rescue pit bull named Tilley and using his platform to raise awareness for animal cruelty.

Trejo's longevity and versatility in the industry have made him a beloved figure in Hollywood, with fans and colleagues alike recognizing him as a true icon of the genre. He continues to act in a variety of projects, showcasing his range as an actor and entertaining audiences with his tough guy persona.

Trejo is a true success story, overcoming personal obstacles to become one of the most recognizable and respected actors in the industry. With a career spanning over three decades, Trejo's impact on film and popular culture will continue to be felt for years to come.

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Trejo appeared on a Jan. 23, 2023, episode of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” in which host Henry Louis Gates Jr. detailed the perilous and astonishing background of the actor’s forebears. What Trejo learned prompted him to deliberate how different the trajectory of his life could have been had he known about the history and legacy of his family’s ancestry.

Trejo explained to Gates that he grew up without many positive influences.

“The biggest problem that I had growing up was that in my family, all the men did kind of construction work and they were always complaining about their work. And they were always angry,” Trejo said on the show, according to Today. He said he grew closest to his uncle Gilbert, a drug dealer, who opened him up to the world of illicit substances that resulted in him dealing by the age of 7 and abusing drugs by his early teens. After years in and out of prison, Trejo decided to leave that life behind for one in front of the camera after being spotted by a casting agent.

Gates proceeded to tell Trejo a story about his grandfather that mirrored his own life journey. While Trejo left the life of crime for greener grass on Hollywood sets, his great-grandfather, Cirilo Garay, left Mexico with his family to seek a better life in America in 1918 and ended up in Texas. After two years of working in strenuous conditions on a Gruene farm, he uprooted the family and settled in the big city of San Antonio. There, he managed to not only buy his own home but also owned his own business – a grocery store. Trejo was taken aback and said he was “proud” of his great-grandfather for “giving us all a chance… so (our family) had a head start.”


Gates had even more good news about Trejo’s past to share. On his mother’s side of the family, it turned out that his maternal grandmother, Josefa Garcia, had not only emigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1904 but eventually became a bona fide citizen. Trejo was overjoyed by the discovery and exclaimed: “It’s just amazing. I’ve got history!” 

Gates told Trejo that Garcia grew up in San José del Cabo. Today, the area is a major tourist spot in Baja California. Trejo was told Garcia's family settled there because Trejo’s fourth great-grandfather, Luciano Agundez, was granted a 4,337-acre plot of land, on which he established his own ranch. “He was a serious landowner,” Gates said, to which Trejo responded in disbelief, “Just knowing when I went down to Cabo San Lucas, my family owned some of that land...” 

Even without having had any knowledge of their lives in the past, Trejo was delighted to learn about his ancestors' lives and was appreciative of where it meant he came from

“I think it's shined a light on who I am on, where I come from and who I come from," he said, and added, "I'm really proud of the whole deal." 

While the 78-year-old Trejo was visibly astounded by the accomplishments of his family, he lamented the fact that, had he known about their enterprising past, things may have played out differently.  

“I’m just overwhelmed. You have to understand, growing up, I had three alternatives. I could either be a laborer or a gangster or an informant. So to learn this, I honestly believe that I think this history could’ve changed my whole family’s life."

What do you think about what Danny Trejo learned about his family’s past? Have you ever uncovered anything surprising about your own family history? Let us know, and be sure to pass this along to friends and family who’d find this story interesting, too.

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