Community rallying around Clinton’s La Guacamaya restaurant after owners face racist messages

CLINTON, Wis. — For six months, La Guacamaya restaurant has brought a spot of color and Mexican cuisine to downtown Clinton.

But within the last three months, fear has been all the owners can taste. 

“I think they were really happy when it started, but now they’re really scared. They are nervous,” said Ginna Isunza, the director of the YWCA’s Immigrant Outreach Program.  

Isunza spoke to News 3 Now on behalf of the owners, who are still too afraid to appear on camera. “They don’t feel safe. They have kids, they have families that they have to take care of and they don’t feel safe to do that.” 

“They did file a police report because of the calls that they were receiving with all those threats and people just calling in and saying ‘leave town, close the restaurant, go back to your country’ was one of the messages so they did report that to police,” said Isunza. “They did write some very bad messages on some of the dollar bills when they were making the payments.” 

Translating to “the macaw” in Spanish, the owners of La Guacamaya named it after the macaw they said they encountered after losing their baby recently.

They had been working in the restaurant industry for years. After considering Janesville and Beloit, they eventually picked Clinton.

“It has escalated to that small group coming into the restaurant and saying things and, it’s just that fact of they have the courage to come into a restaurant and tell you to remove a flag,” Isunza said. “Decoration around the restaurant, having the Mexican flag inside the restaurant, just the fact that you’re Mexican.”   

The racist messages from what they call a small group led them to reach out to her.

“When they called me and were like, ‘We’re going to close,’ I was like, ‘No you’re not, no you’re not.’” 

The owners heard the group was trying to get signatures to close the small business, but the city told Isunza that’s unlikely because there are no legitimate complaints and their permits are in order.

So Isunza put the word out, and support has flooded in from Clinton, Beloit, Janesville, Rockford, and as far as Minnesota.

“We received lots of emails, members of the community wanting to help,” she said. “We received an email of some pro-bono work regarding building their website, people wanted to make donations to the restaurant.”

Despite receiving offers, both Isunza and the owners said they’re not looking for donations, and there’s no GoFundMe set up. They want to work and for people to come by and try the food at La Guacamaya. 

“When you take a look at how many people, you know, how (much) larger is the group that wants to support them, it’s just totally different,” said Isunza.