Meet Michelle Castillo, a Palm Springs native setting the pace on multiple fronts

Every Sunday we introduce you to people in our community who are making a difference. This week we invite you to meet an artist, writer, educator, chef, and community organizer all wrapped up in just one person.

The people who make Palm Springs like no place else

Michelle Castillo holds the distinction of running the city’s first home-based licensed restaurant — Lola’s Kusina. But if you think being part of the dining revolution in the state is where her contribution to the community stops, think again. Castillo not only runs Lola’s Kusina (which she describes as a socially engaged food, art, and memory project), but she founded the feminist creative collective Wyld Womxn and is one of the cofounders of Bayanihan Desert, a civically engaged group connecting Filipinos, communities of color, and their allies. Currently, she is at work on her first book about growing up in an intergenerational immigrant household. Get to know Michelle below.

NAME: Michelle Castillo

AGE: 36

OCCUPATION: Artist, writer, educator, chef, and community organizer

NEIGHBORHOOD: I grew up in the Veterans Tract neighborhood, which is now District #1. Currently, I reside in District #2, in the Gene Autry neighborhood.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN THE DESERT? I was born and raised in Palm Springs. At 17, I left for college and work. Six years ago, I returned and I’m still here.

WHAT KEEPS YOU HERE? Honestly, there is something very special happening here in the desert. The artists’ community, the spaces I’m part of and have helped build, the growing of more inclusive communities, and people genuinely wanting to spark positive change during these times.

DO YOU HAVE FAMILY HERE? Yes, I have a good amount of family here in the desert, which is always a great thing!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR IN THE DESERT? Somewhere between autumn and winter. I love the snow-covered mountains!

HOW DO YOU BEAT THE HEAT? I like to head to Idyllwild for the day, or visit Whitewater Preserve and sit by the river.

Let your life’s work leave a legacy for others and not be self-serving.

If you are in a place of power, make sure you are sharing that power with others and uplifting those around you.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT? You’ll probably find me at El Salvador Cafe having some amazing pupusas, or at King’s Highway inside the Ace Hotel!

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING OUR COMMUNITY? We have so many issues facing us in today’s society, but I will say we could start listening to each other a little more and create a culture that cultivates more empathy and compassion.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO OR PLACE TO GO IN THE DESERT? I enjoy Joshua Tree National Park for hiking, camping, and some stargazing!

WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? The desserts at Manhattan in the Desert!

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