Jesús M. Grillo Trujillo, 57, is a journalist and co-publisher of New/Nueva Opinión, a Spanish language newspaper based in the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo area. He’s served on several nonprofit boards in Battle Creek and has organized Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations and other activities connecting the Latino community to the community at large. He was recognized by McDonald’s as one of the Top 10 Latino leaders in Michigan in 2006, and awarded Civic Leadership honors by the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, WGVU Public Media and Fifth Third Bank the same year. In 2009 he was awarded the Red Rose Award by the Rotary Club of Battle Creek in recognition of dedication and selfless service to the Battle Creek community.
We caught up with Grillo Trujillo by email to ask him about his cultural heritage and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him.
KCC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where is your family from originally, and when did they come to the U.S.?
JGT: I was born on Jan. 31, 1964, in a town called Anzoátegui, in the state of Tolima in Colombia. I grew up in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. I graduated as a journalist and, after that, I married Lucinda Mosquera on Oct. 1, 1988. We came to live in Battle Creek in 1996 and have two children born here, Juan Sebastian and Nicolás. In 2002 we founded the Spanish language newspaper in Battle Creek, New/Nueva Opinión.
KCC: What cultural traditions have carried on in your family over the years?
JGT: Colombian breakfast style every Sunday. Cook sancocho, a typical Colombian food, outdoor once per year.
Celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December at midnight with food, gifts and dance.
KCC: What do you think of when you think about Hispanic culture?
JGT: It depends on where I am looking at it. If I see it from the cultural point of view, it is tradition, enrichment, contribution. If I see it from the immigrant point of view, it is forgetfulness, inequality, being left behind.
KCC: What aspect of being Hispanic are you most proud of?
JGT: Being Hispanic is not just about speaking Spanish or having a Latino first or last name. Being Latino is speaking another language with an accent and being proud of it. To be Latino is to recognize the difference between a taco and an empanada. To be Latino is to recognize the difference between cumbia and salsa. To be Latino is to know where both Patagonia and the Sonoran Desert are in the world. To be Latino is to be able to differentiate between a joropo llanero and a son jarocho. To be Latino is to understand that although we are one community, we are so different.
I feel proud of everything that it means to be Latino, from the accent, the music, the food. And I enjoy a taco as much as I like to enjoy an empanada, which is made with the same ingredients but taste different. That’s how our community is.
KCC: What Hispanic role models have been most influential in your life, and why?
JGT: My dad always taught me how to overcome even in the most challenging times. And my mom, from whom I learned to have compassion and love for others and facing every day always happy.
KCC: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
JGT: Hispanic Heritage Month was established to recognize the achievements and contributions of Latin Americans in the United States. It is a month where we celebrate, eat and honor the Latino culture. But, once Oct. 15 has passed, it seems that all is forgotten, and Latinos continue to be forgotten in U.S. society.
KCC: Anything else you’d like to say?
JGT: The greatest accomplishment has been to bring to the Battle Creek community a focus of information dedicated to Latinos. New/Nueva Opinión is a product that has changed lives, starting with my family. We have changed the Battle Creek community at large’s perception of the Latino community, just as every time someone benefits from the information we publish, we have changed that person’s life.
About National Hispanic Heritage Month
KCC’s annual observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month continues this fall with several events, activities and initiatives running through Oct. 15. See a list at kellogg.edu/hhm.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 each year to celebrate Latino culture and the past and present contributions of individuals with Latino heritage. The month-long observance began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and was expanded to a full 30 days in 1988; the Sept. 15 start date is relevant as the anniversary of the independence of several Latin American countries.
For more information about National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit hispanicheritagemonth.gov.