Iconic Hispanic Angelenos in History: Danny Trejo

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, join us as we celebrate the Hispanic individuals that have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Check back often as we highlight a new iconic Hispanic Angeleno throughout the month.


Today we celebrate Danny Trejo:

Danny Trejo, born in Echo Park on May 16, 1944, is more than just an ex-con turned actor. He is, according to director Robert Rodriguez, the First Latino Superhero.

Growing up in Pacoima, Trejo seemed poised for a career in boxing, but after a series of robbery and drug charges he ended up serving time at San Quentin and other prisons for over a decade. While in prison, Trejo became lightweight and welterweight champion in the Pennsylvania state prison system, and took part in a 12-step program to eventually clean himself up.

Trejo was released in 1972. He volunteered as a drug counselor, and it was through this line of work that he made his way into Hollywood. When visiting a man he was sponsoring in 1984 on the set of the movie "Runaway Train," Trejo caught the eye of a casting agent who immediately took note of Trejo's rugged and tough features.

Also on the set of "Runaway Train" was screenwriter Eddie Bunker, who recognized Trejo as a fellow ex-inmate. Knowing of Trejo's boxing experience, he asked him to train actor Eric Roberts for the film. Roberts eventually was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.

Trejo met director Robert Rodriguez in 1995 on the set of "Desperado." They discovered that they were second cousins, and began a fruitful work relationship that continues to this day. Rodriguez first created the character Machete in the "Spy Kids" movies, and later created a fake trailer about the character for "Grindhouse," his joint project with Quentin Tarantino. In 2010, the feature film "Machete" was released. The character, a tough, no-nonsense ex-federale who fought against corrupt politicians and drug lords, was an instant hit.

Trejo says he is not bothered by the constant calls of "Machete!" that are thrown his way because he is thankful that he is able to even have this type of work. Trejo stills lives in Pacoima and continues to be a counselor. He currently has a role as Romeo Parada in "Son of Anarchy."

  • Born on Temple Street in Echo Park, Los Angeles
  • Iconic chest tattoo of a woman in a sombrero was completed over 2.5 years and in 3 different prisons
  • Began a career as a drug counselor 2 years after being released from a 11-year prison sentence
  • For the first 5 years of his acting career, he was "Inmate #1" or "Convict #2"
  • Starred in a Jonas Brothers music video
  • The award-winning independent film, "Champion" was released in 2005, documenting Trejo's life
  • For his starring role in "Machete," he received top billing over Robert DeNiro

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