'Hey, Machete!': Authentic Danny Trejo Delivers Message of Hope

Iconic Hollywood star tells Canton crowd that education is key.

Danny Trejo often plays the villain on the big screen, but in real life he’s a hero to many. And while his fictional characters are bold, his authentic personality is unassuming and matched by an ability to meet people where they are — while delivering a message they’re longing to hear.

With a presence that’s much larger than his 5-feet 6-inch frame, Trejo immediately commands the attention in any room yet connects closely with those he personally greets.

“Your son wants to be a chef? Have him call me when he gets there,” he said as he autographed a copy of “Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from L.A.” for a member of the VIP reception that took place at the Canton Palace Theatre just before Trejo’s address to an at-capacity crowd.

During his visit to Stark County on Thursday, this iconic Hollywood star also took time to speak in virtual meetings with youth in the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System and incarcerated individuals at the Trumbull Correctional Institution who are working toward their degree at Kent State University at Trumbull.

Trejo shared his story in varying degrees — expounding upon the crimes he’d committed to support his drug addiction to his time served at multiple prisons. Still, one common theme — and conclusion — emerged: education has the power to change lives.

“Education is the key to anything you want to do — anything,” Trejo said. “Do you understand what education can do for your life?”

And while Trejo acknowledges he’s an unlikely ambassador for academics, he has witnessed firsthand how an education changes everything. 

“It took me a long time to learn (the value of education),” he said. “But... you even need a high school diploma to get a good assignment in the penitentiary.”

Trejo’s visit Thursday was the result of a local speaker series partnership by Kent State University at Stark’s Featured Speakers Series and the Stark Library’s Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series.

“Danny Trejo’s story is about second chances. As Stark County’s public university, our mission is to provide the life-changing education that transforms lives,” said Denise A. Seachrist, Ph.D., dean of Kent State Stark. “We know the Stark Library also supports education throughout our local communities. With our missions aligned, it made perfect sense our speaker series would partner in this way.”

Recently celebrating 30 years, Kent State Stark’s Featured Speakers Series has brought national and international experts in civil rights, politics, education, environmental activism, literature and art to Stark County. The library’s Speaking of Books Author Series brings acclaimed writers to the county who inspire lively discussion and — at times — challenging conversation while exemplifying literary excellence.

Trejo, author of the fearlessly honest memoir “Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood”, has starred in dozens of films and television shows, and voiced various characters in video games. Some of his notable films include “Desperado,” “Heat,” the “From Dusk ‘til Dawn” series, “Con Air,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” the “Spy Kids” movies, “Machete” and more. He has had recurring roles on popular and award-winning television shows, including “Breaking Bad,” “The Flash” and “Sons of Anarchy” — and that’s just to name a few from Trejo’s storied career.

Not only do Trejo’s works resonate with the masses, but his actions also spoke volumes at the Stark event. Following his presentation at the Palace Theatre, he remained almost two hours until the line ended for a public meet and greet.

Trejo posed for more photos, autographed dozens more books, staying until the final theater usher had their opportunity, too. That’s when Trejo delivered an unsaid message loud and clear: Acting is not his main job, people are. 

“Everything good that has happened in my life,” he said, “has happened because I was helping someone else.”

POSTED: Friday, March 10, 2023 01:06 PM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2023 02:52 PM
Melissa Griffy Seeton, Kent State University at Stark