The Puerto Rican is a regular at the restaurant where Floyd worked as a bouncer, and couldn’t believe how he had died after subdued by the police.
Ramón Puig was full of rage and outrage when he saw the video of George Floyd being subdued by four white Minneapolis police officers. The horrific event that cost Floyd’s life happened a few miles away from the city that welcomed him into a new life two years ago: Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The Puerto Rican was still processing what he had seen on the video when he received a call from one of his best friends in Minneapolis, Jamil Gobaira, who is also Puerto Rican. Jamil said the man on the video was Floyd, a bouncer at Conga Latin Bistro, a restaurant they frequent to satisfy their cravings for Boricua comfort food.
“My jaw just dropped; I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. It hurts to see a person you’ve met, someone who’d hug you every time you saw him. He was loved in all of Northeast Minneapolis. He was a friend of many Boricuas, including the chef of the restaurant,” Ramón told The Americano.
Since the protests began in Minneapolis after Floyd’s death, Ramón has been attending them all. Along with his friend Jamil, he has documented on videos and photos the anger of thousands.
“Two things shocked me. The fires—seeing a building on fire every four blocks. That impressed me, especially in a city like Minneapolis. You have the cool-headedness of Minnesotans, and suddenly this is happening. Seeing such destruction definitely left an impression.”
The rage in the faces of protesters
“The second thing that impacted me is the quality of the rage on the faces of Black people. It feels like something that’s been chasing them around for 400 years is finally being vented,” Ramón says.
The intensity of these emotions makes him think the protests will last for days.
Ramón is a financier and lawyer. In Puerto Rico, he was a legal advisor for the Chamber of Representatives and private companies. Two years ago he moved to Minnesota in search of new opportunities.
“I lived through the experience of Hurricane Maria, and now I am experiencing this turn of events. Situations like this help us grow as human beings,” Ramón says.
The financial trader currently works at the Wells Fargo headquarters in Minnesota. He says he feels the tension in Saint Paul. On Monday, Ramón was driving near a lake and saw a pickup truck with an American flag and a white supremacy flag. “There are videos that show abuse; there are the experiences of people I know and have been discriminated against. I’m not exempt from discrimination. It would be good for a bit of calmness to return. Anything can happen. Both Blacks and Whites are upset.”
Manos a la obra
Ramón feels a responsibility toward the city and is signing up for cleanup efforts within the community, he says.
“I support whichever way I can. I go to Lake Street every day. I join the protests; I walk. Today I am going with a friend who wants to take her little girl to Lake Street. We want to join volunteers in helping to clean up the rubble. Everyone is helping. We must contribute besides voting in a ballot box every four years. There are other ways of helping,” Ramón said.