With ‘Café con Pam,’ San Diego podcaster Pam Covarrubias serves hot topics from diverse voices
Pam Covarrubias’ ‘Café con Pam’ was named a top Latino podcast by Oprah Daily
Like many people who spend a lot of their time on the road, Pam Covarrubias got into podcasts long before they became everyone’s pandemic obsession.
During her travel-heavy days as a corporate trainer in the mid-2010s, Covarrubias became a particular devotee of interview podcasts. She loved losing herself in the rich details of other people’s lives. She liked knowing that no matter where she was, she would always have access to a familiar voice and some lively conversation.
Most importantly, podcasts made Covarrubias feel less alone. Until she realized that the friendly voices were not really speaking for her, and that the lives being examined were not really her life, or the lives of her friends and family.
She could have tuned out, but with the words of her resourceful mother ringing in her ears, Covarrubias stepped up. And in 2016, Covarrubias’ “Café con Pam” interview podcast opened for business.
“When I was listening to podcasts, I spent the majority of my time looking for people who looked and sounded like me. I was looking for the immigrant story. I was looking for last names that were hard to pronounce. I was looking for Spanglish. And I did not find any of it,” Covarrubias said from her home in Bankers Hill, where she records the podcast and also works as a business and life coach.
“But one thing my mom always said was, ‘If you find a hole, you need to patch it.’ Selfishly, I did this because I wanted to hear about people like me. Now, it’s for everyone.”
As Covarrubias describes it, “Café con Pam” is “the weekly podcast featuring fearless Latine/x and People the Global Majority that break barriers, change lives and make the world a better place while living in the U.S.”
In other words, the podcast is Covarrubias interviewing the people she always wanted to hear from about the subjects she never gets tired of talking about.
Her interviewees — a wide-ranging group that has included youth-violence prevention expert and author Danny Sanchez, Latina entrepreneur Ana Flores, and women’s-health advocate Dr. Sophia Yen — are committed, opinionated people who are willing to dig into complicated, sometime controversial issues with a host who sees no point in conversations that aren’t deep and inspiring.
“I’m an optimist at heart. I wanted to highlight the accomplishments of people, regardless of potential stereotypes and regardless of expectation,” the 36-year-old Covarrubias said.
“I wanted to show that despite biases, people can be awesome. The world is in shambles, but there are still a lot of things that we can make happen with community, with love and with passion.”
And Covarrubias relates to people who persist and triumph because she is one of them.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Mexico City, Covarrubias returned to Los Angeles in the ninth grade, so that her single mother would have more family support for herself and her three children.
When Covarrubias started her freshman year at Venice High School, she was put in an English as a Second Language classroom, where she made friends with kids from all over the world while getting a crash course in the repressive powers of stigma.
Even though she was born in Los Angeles, Covarrubias was viewed as an immigrant, with all of the stereotypes that come with that territory. The assumption was that she did not belong in the Golden State. Or any state, really.
Fortunately, Covarrubias was an early non-believer in assumptions.
“My dad left when I was 11. When he left, I had to grow up. I was the oldest sister, and I was the one who had to be a role model. The expectation was that I had to be good and perform in a certain way,” said Covarrubias, who went on to get her Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Missouri Western State University in Saint Joseph, Mo.
“But I have always been a rebel at heart. I would often get into trouble for questioning things. My No. 1 core value is curiosity. I have always been curious about why things happen the way they do. And now, I get to ask questions for a living.”
Covarrubias’ knack for getting smart, heartfelt answers from her diverse collection of distinguished guests, along with her own willingness to talk about everything from her matcha obsession to her struggles with procrastination, have earned “Café con Pam” a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts. It also made Oprah Daily’s list of Best Spanish and Latino Podcasts in 2021 and 2022.
She has recorded more than 250 episodes of “Café con Pam” so far, and there are many more to come. Her business clients include such organizations as the Small Business Development Council, the Latino Development Center-Empowered Women International, and Hispanic Star.
But while she’s thinking about the pointed questions she’s going to ask her guests or what more she can do to help small businesses and nonprofits, Covarrubias is also figuring out how to challenge herself. Her long-range plans include teaching people in underserved communities how to get into the NFT business, as well as making good on her longtime dream of giving away one house to a single mom every year.
It may sound like a big leap, but the woman who made the podcast that she wanted to hear is ready to create the future she wants to live in.
“I left a really stable job to do what I’m doing now because there was this pull in my gut that told me I had to do it. I couldn’t wait for someone else to do it. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve moved countries. I’ve moved to a new school. I’ve crossed borders. So I should be fine,’” Covarrubias said.
“I think I’m just getting started.”
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