For Grisel Barajas, life-changing work has always been in the cards.
Born in Mexico, Barajas moved with her family to the United States at age 10 – first to Chicago, then to Indianapolis.
Things were rough for the Barajas family as language barriers with social workers kept them from getting much of what they needed.
Barajas said she spends most of her time making sure that situation doesn’t happen to another family.
“We were really poor. We had nothing,” Barajas said. “My dad used to work this job, he used to make like five dollars an hour and we are a family of seven. It was a really sad time because we went from being not very wealthy, but very OK in Mexico, and then the economy dropped.”
Barajas said her father lost his business in Mexico, and as a result took the little money he had left and moved his family to the U.S.
While in Chicago, the family lived in a one bedroom apartment and managed to save up enough money to move to Indianapolis.
“It was difficult because of the time – this was in ’97 – because there weren’t a lot of Latinos migrating to the area we were at, so it was very hard for us to fit in,” she said. “And very hard for us to find the help that we needed as far as food banks, or clothing banks or stuff like that because social workers didn’t speak Spanish.”
At the time social work was still a fairly new career looking to grow, she said. That is why she decided to enter the field.
“I wanted to make sure that I dedicated my life to something that was going to help other people so that they wouldn’t go through what we went through,” Barajas said.
After high school, she attended USI, started working after graduation and then entered the Master of Social Work program at USI.
After one year, Barajas decided to switch to communications, she said.
“I just felt like it would give me more of what I wanted to do in the future,” she said.
Barajas co-hosts “Soul & Salsa,” a Spanglish radio show that airs on Magic 98.5, with Darin Lander.
She uses the name Griselita during the show, and Lander goes by Javiel Chulo.
Listeners get to experience different cultures as both Spanish and English songs are played and either a Spanish word, phrase or cultural lesson is included in every show.
Barajas produces an uplifting segment each show that focuses on various topics that motivates listeners in their work and personal lives.
The segment was once the only two minutes of airtime Barajas was allotted.
“I wasn’t sure what my part was going to be here or how we were going to do this, but I expressed to (Lander) my desire to create something and he told me it was something he’d been thinking about for awhile,” she said. “So my boss had agreed to give me an opportunity on air. He said ‘OK, I think you’re ready, I’m going to give you a two minute segment and it’s going to be like a motivational thing, like a daily vitamin.’”
Barajas said she agreed, but only if she could have a little more air time.
“I went to (Lander) and I said Ed, who is our boss, is finally giving me this opportunity and I would much rather take a chance on having my opportunity and see if he approves something that we could do together,” she said. “So we got to working on this project and we did it, but we had to prove to him that it was going to work.”
Barajas and Lander went out into the community and presented their idea to different people and businesses to find support to show to their boss.
When all of the numbers were approved, Lander and Barajas were given three months to prove they could put on a successful show. They’ve been at it since March 3.
But Barajas’ dreams don’t stop there.
She said she wants to continue to motivate communities and eventually move to television. She dreams of hosting her own talk show that focuses on providing something healthy for the community.
“I feel like there’s so much in the world about news or entertainment, but there’s so little about people who just slip through the cracks, you know, like everything from minorities to single parents to rich people to people that do drugs,” Barajas said. “There’s so many different kinds of people (who) need to be motivated on a daily basis so that we do more positive things in our communities.”
Her talk show would consist of discussion panels and feature ordinary people doing extraordinary things, she said.
Barajas and Lander are on-air Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 98.5 FM and 1400 AM. They accept requests and comments from audience members via the show’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @soulandsalsaevv, as well as through an anonymous text line at (812) 565-8255.