La Iguana Closes Its Doors After Ten Years

Students and locals celebrated La Iguana’s last day in business with a buffet and drinks. 

Celine Turkyilmaz and Emily Rahhal, Maroon-News Staff

La Iguana Restaurant closed this Saturday so that owners Mary and Elder Santos can focus on starting a family. 

For August 25, its final day in business, La Iguana invited the Hamilton community via Facebook to gather at the restaurant. It offered a fixed menu from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $20, while children under 12 ate for free.Mary Santos said she essentially celebrated two goodbyes; one with the townthis past Thursday, and one with Colgate students and faculty on Saturday.

“It was amazing because we knew every table,” Mary Santos said. “Everyone was walking around and mingling with each other.” 

La Iguana allowed the Santoses to connect with people in different towns who came to try the restaurant’s authentic Mexican cuisine. A native of Brazil herself, Mary Santos said she was excited about the exchange of culture and knowledge within Hamilton. 

“It was exciting to discover new things,” Mary Santos said. “I’m a free spirit, so it was easy to get to know [the students and locals]. It’s good to be exposed to different perspectives.”

Mary Santos explained that starting a family would be impossible while continuing to run La Iguana. La Iguana, and other restaurants in Hamilton, struggle to find enough employees to function. Most of La Iguana’s staff commuted from other towns given the high price of living in Hamilton, which made winter nights difficult for staff to get to work. All of these challenges meant that the Santoses carried the brunt of the work. 

“This is a kind of cuisine where you need six people in the kitchen running it the same way you have six people [at the front]. And it’s way easier to find six people to run the front of the house than it is to find six people to run the back of the house. Over the years, it just became really difficult for us to keep up with it,” Mary Santos said. 

The restaurant, located on 10 Broad Street, opened in 2008, and Mary Santos said she will miss the tight-knit community she has come to love since then.

“The community was very embracing. It’s nice to know your neighbors are looking out for you,” Mary Santos said. “I would do it all over again…for the people we met here.” 

The Santoses are hoping to move to Wilton, Connecticut, where they will be closer to their friends and good schools for their children. 

While they have enjoyed working in the restaurant business, Mary Santos is looking to try sales and Elder Santos would like to work in electrical work.

“I want to keep possibilities and options open, as things are constantly changing,” Mary Santos said. “It’s difficult to know what exactly you’re meant to be.”

Mary Santos reiterated Elder Santos’ belief that there are no limitations to what people can dedicate their lives to. 

The couple wishes to continue to connect with those around them while also supporting each other. They hope to have two children. 

“We’ve decided that we’re ready for the next challenge,” published the La Iguana Restaurant Twitter account. “It’s come time to say goodbye…It’s sad, but exciting.”

The space has been sold and will become a diner-style restaurant. 

Contact Celine Turkyilmaz and Emily Rahhal at [email protected] and [email protected]