Born in Corozal, Puerto Rico, Ismael married his wife Carmen at age 17, a year before they moved to the United States in 1967. Like everyone else who works at Santiago’s, he lives in Westfield too, just down the block from the restaurant he owns. October 15th, 2009 marked 10 years in business for Santiago’s Family Restaurant. Every Friday and Saturday night, Ismael and his family and friends play a blend of Puerto Rican jíbaro, Cuban folk, and other Latin music. They occasionally throw covers of golden oldies, like Elvis, into the mix, but always render them with a Puerto Rican flair. Ismael’s been playing music on the cuatro since he was 10 or 12 in Puerto Rico.
Ismael also leads Grupo Canela, the live band composed of family and friends that can be hired to perform at occasions and events. His son Gego also DJs and the restaurant runs a catering business. This means that they are often hired all together as a family for events such as weddings to play live music, DJ, and serve traditional Caribbean food. Ismael himself has many musical connections within the local and greater Caribbean community. From playing on stage with members of Buena Vista Social Club at the Iron Horse to inviting customers up from their meals to join the band for a song or two on Friday nights, he is an active part of the musical community and well known.