Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Pilar Castañeda and Marlon Gonzalez of Café Santo - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Pilar Castañeda and Marlon Gonzalez of Café Santo

“I feel in different countries, not only here in America, people have this cliché mentality about what Oaxaca and Mexico look like,” says Marlon Gonzalez. Not that there’s anything wrong with, say, Frida Kahlo imagery, Gonzalez says, but Café Santo in Los Angeles—from Gonzalez and partner Pilar Castañeda, who is LA-born with familial ties to Jalisco and Oaxaca—showcases a different side of the state: a fresh, contemporary Oaxaca that Gonzalez grew up in before moving to LA 12 years ago.

Gonzalez gravitated toward coffee to express himself in his new city. The duo launched Café Santo as a pop-up in 2016 before opening a permanent space last summer within a sleek repurposed shipping container in Montebello’s BLVD MRKT. Serving mostly Latin American coffees roasted by Leo Chávez from Picaresca Casa Tostadora alongside drinks like the Oaxacan Mocha (traditional Oaxacan chocolate with almonds and cinnamon added to espresso) and specialty chocolate from Reina Negra & Rito Chocolate based in Oaxaca, Café Santo also serves as a cultural hub with art installations and workshops on topics like mezcal and chocolate pairing, providing a bi-cultural bridge between LA and Oaxaca.

“Santo means ‘holy’ in English, so basically that’s how I feel about coffee … coffee connects people in a magical way,” Gonzalez says.

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