Juan Albert worked for years as a federal auditor for the U.S. government, and in 1999 visited Mesilla, New Mexico, located next to Las Cruces.
“Ever since then,” he says, “I wanted to be a Mesillero!”
It took a little over 20 years, but now Albert and his wife, Claudia Gonzalez, are the founders of Rincón de Mesilla, a coffee shop that, as he proudly says, “is much more than a coffee shop.”
Mesilla by way of a romance in El Paso
To say that Albert is well-traveled is like saying the sky is blue. His family is from Spain, and he was born in Cuba. Shortly after, the family migrated and he grew up in Illinois.
His career as a federal auditor saw him work in 23 countries, most of which were in Latin America. Albert is fluent in English and Spanish.
Claudia Gonzalez is from Juarez, Mexico, and comes from a family of 15.
“We didn’t have resources growing up, and I wasn’t able to get an education,” Gonzalez said. “I moved to El Paso, and was working as a house cleaner while I started my education in my 40s. First I earned my G.E.D., then I attended NMSU and earned a bachelor’s degree in education, and finally a master’s degree in Spanish language education.”
During this time, Albert and Gonzalez met each other in El Paso, fell in love, got married, and for the last year and a half have been running Rincón de Mesilla.
“Our location became available in 2021,” Albert said, “and we knew it was time.” Rincón de Mesilla opened its doors in May of 2021.
Coffee shop, cultural center, artisanal store, gathering place
“We want Rincón de Mesilla to be a gathering place for people of all cultural backgrounds,” Albert said, “and for everyone to feel like they are home. Rincón means corner in Spanish, and we want to be the corner spot where everyone comes for food, friends, and community.”
“Many people love and are proud of their culture,” Gonzalez said, “and we want to celebrate that. We love to show off not only Mexican culture, but all of Latin America.”
“We make products designed by artisans available here not only to help them make a living, but to expose our visitors to the richness of other cultures.”
Recently a group of eight travelers from India visited their shop. They told Gonzalez how welcome and warm they felt being there. She took their comfort as a sign they are fulfilling their mission.
Welcoming visitors from around the world
“We put on cultural events, and it has proved to be popular,” Gonzalez said. “The Fountain Theater showed a movie on the life of artist Frida Kahlo,” Gonzalez said, “and so we put on a festival and art contest here. We had attendees from six years old all the way into their eighties, and everyone loved it.” The Fountain Theater, the oldest movie theater in New Mexico, opened in 1905.
Gonzalez enjoys hearing the sound of other languages floating through the air. “We have a group that meets here every week to practice their Spanish,” she said, “but we have other foreign language groups that come in here as well.”
She said that it is not uncommon to hear English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and more on any given day, and their guest book is testament to it as well. Their shop has had visitors from Norway, Germany, New Zealand and many other countries across the globe.
“Las Cruces is an adventure tourist town,” Albert said. “We have a university, and the outdoors draw people from everywhere. There’s a lot of culture here, people love to visit, and we love to have them visit us.”
Don’t forget the food
As if serving up coffee and cultural events weren’t enough, the food is delicious. The shop features traditional Mexican dishes, delicious Mexican pastries, and every type of coffee drink a java connoisseur could dream of.
“We know the artisans whose products we sell,” Albert said. “We know how they live, we know their lives. It’s why we’re so passionate to share the amazing products they make.”
Gonzalez smiled and nodded in agreement. “When people come here, they are our customers. Then they become our friends. We are part of the community.” Albert added, “And we’re helping build community as we go.”