June 22, 2019
Oil on Linen
20 x 24″
ER: What is your Name? What is your nickname? Do you have a childhood nickname?
AR: My nickname is Bebo. “Baby.” My parents agreed that I would be called Emmanuel Angel Roque Ramos. My father decided that he wanted his name for me at the last minute before he registered me. I was the first boy. My name became Angel Manuel Roque Ramos, Jr. This was against my mom’s wishes and she was very upset. She said I will not call him Angel – ever! I will call him Bebo Forever! Until this day, I am still Bebo. My cousins in the US joke that the English version is Bee Bop! They yell, Bop! They laugh when I give them the “bad” look. We know that look!
ER: How old are you?
AR: I am 35
ER: What is your favorite saying or quote?
AR: ““The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” Pope Gregory I.”
ER: Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you call home?
AR: I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Both my parents were bankers. They met at City Bank where they both worked. My dad was vice president of security. He saw my mom on camera. He liked her. Knew when her shift was over and met her at the escalator that is the story! They are divorced now but get along very well. Both got remarried. Dad was married but she passed away shortly after the hurricane Maria. We lost a lot of family when Carmen was killed. It was a lot to handle.
I call Puerto Rico home. Home is wherever I feel comfortable.
About Angel’s Retreat project
I want to prepare a half day healing story telling retreat for the Diocese. Stories about how everybody feels. People that disagree with each other or see things completely differently because of their background. I want them to tell their story without any interruption so we can heal together. Our own work will heal us. Together.
Staying together after a tragedy like Carmen’s was painful, A lot of loss. Losing Mark and Gail and Caroline just made it worse. People we loved.
About The Brotherhood of St. Gregory
Angel wears the habit and cross of The Brotherhood of St. Gregory. The Brotherhood of St. Gregory is the biggest religious community of men in the church. Founded more than 50 years ago. We have brothers in Australia and Philippines. We meet every year in the summer near our founding date in a Roman Catholic monastery in New York.
The Brotherhood of St. Gregory is an Episcopal Religious community. We follow the cannons written for Religious communities. We are a dispersed community consecrated into religious life. Dispersed means we live separated from each other, not in a monastery or a convent. Religious orders are communities that live in a monastery or a convent. Their property is held in community.
The Brotherhood of St. Gregory follows the three classic vows. Poverty Chastity and Obedience. Some of us are married, some of us are single and some of us are celibate by choice. We choose if we want to have a family or not. We are gay, straight or binary. We are a very diverse group of people. Conservative, liberal, in the middle. We support each other and communicate frequently by email or phone. Some brothers visit each other.
The Brotherhoods Council meets twice a year held at the Episcopal Center in Baltimore where they handle business etc. We are a well-organized community. We have a director of education and a financial administrator. We divide ties to our home parish and the community. Each one of us has a different day job. Some are psychologists, MDs, college professors, artists, priests, deacons, cooks and nurses (a lot of nurses) and retired, of course.
I have been a vowed brother for a year on August 25. I have been in the education process for 3 years. I was a novice for 2 years. My first habit was white, and my cross was olive wood. I have been training for technically 4 years. The interview process is extensive. I love it. The brotherhood gives me structure. It keeps me leveled and humble.
Note from artist: “The Brotherhood is kind of like your Kanuga???”
ER: Where are your parents/grandparents from? How did they influence you today? (big question)
AR: My Mother’s mom influenced my religious practices. I stayed with her a lot and love her so much.
We talked for hours. We would wake up at 4:30am on Sunday for her classic burnt oatmeal (not sure why but she always burnt the oatmeal) and go to the town church in Rio Grande. It was an old beautiful church. She was part of the Ladies of Mary – the ushers. We would stay for some fried food and take the bus back or have grandpa pick us up, It was fun. She always encouraged my religious practices. My mom didn’t care much about my religious inclinations.
My grandmother was ecstatic when I went to seminary. So proud when we went to her church. When I could preach, she would cry. My grandmother now has Alzheimer’s. She remembers my voice and recognizes me on the phone. She can’t speak much anymore.
My other grandmother passed away a year and a half ago. She was an amazing cook. I always watched her. She taught me to drink coffee at 5 am, eat bread, cheese, butter and go back to sleep, then wake at 7 and have breakfast and coffee. She put coffee in my baby bottle when I was a kid. Coffee instead of chocolate milk. Made coffee the old-fashioned way, without a machine. We would go steal yams in grandpa’s garden at night hoping he wouldn’t notice. I was not spoiled by my grandmothers but respectful of them always. Not like the other kids.
ER: What is your heritage (ethnicity)?
AR: Puerto Rican. I am part black, part white and Taino.
My family has a lot of white. My grandmother was from Galicia Spain. She was incredibly disciplined and straight forward. Don’t know much about my great grandparents but I know that they are mixed with everything. We have the magical three, Spanish, Native and African. The food in my family is amazing because of the culture mixes! My family is influenced a lot by African and Spanish music so there is a lot of drums and flavor involved.
Everyone but me sings and plays instruments. My sister and my dad sing quite well. My sister is a Soprano and an Alto she did a lot of theater and competitions. Allot of the music we sing is slavery songs about colonization and love.
I was surprised at the racism in this country. When I came here it was a shocker to see such division. I wasn’t raised that way-we all lived together. My best friend is white, green eyes and blond. We always hung out together and the fact that we look different on the outside we have always been brothers. It is different here. I hear racial slurs that I don’t hear in PR. I think it makes you a prouder American to know where you came from. I want to get involved racial division awareness.
ER: Why do you live here? How did you get here?
AR: I came in 2003 to go to Culinary School and stayed.
ER: Do you speak another language?
AR: Spanish and English for now.
ER: What is your favorite color?
AR: Red and Green.
ER: Do you have a pet(s)?
AR: Yes I have a dog named KOKO.
ER: What is your passion? What are you doing when you are most happy?
AR: Reading, at the beach, cooking, or at a concert. Many things.
ER: Do you have a mission? A reason for doing that which is your passion?
AR: To make a change. It makes my heart happy.
ER: What is / was your profession? Is this profession what you were meant to do? Why?
I work at Henderson Behavioral. I am a Peer Support Specialist. My preferred thing is trauma at the moment. Trauma caused by sexual abuse, violence with a specialty in opiate addictions. We handle ODs. I advise people who are going through psychosis because of their trauma. I work with people who have gone through horrific sexual abuse. I help them get the resources to recover. I help them become independent, get their meds, get the therapy they need, get housing, go to school to become functioning members of society.
As a peer specialist I use my own experience with trauma. I suffer from PTSD and have been in therapy for many years. I suffered sexual abuse. I recovered from it. You are always in recovery it never ends. I use my own life experiences to help others heal. You have to prepare yourself for constantly “stirring the pot” which brings up your own stuff that has to be dealt with.
I work with an amazing group of people. There is no elephant in the room when we talk in our office. When we talk of drug addiction, we talk about it honestly. When there is a crisis and the psychologists, officers or therapists can’t get to them they call us at times. We get through when they cannot. We see the person, not the diagnosis. If we are not careful it could be an unsafe job. Sometimes it is nerve wracking.
Angel is an artist
I went to a school called La Liga de Arte. It was an school in old San Juan in the old section. Close to St. Phillips Castle, a huge fort. I studied calligraphy and painting in acrylics. My mom wouldn’t permit oil. No mess please! I love acrylics but would love oil. For many years I studied art history. My favorite place to hang out was the museum. Then I went to Central de Artes ….Central high school of visual arts. This school had college level art classes from grades 9-12. Since I could make my own decision, I applied to the ceramics and sculpture department. It was very difficult to get in. I was accepted. I took two years of ceramics. Working with clay changed my life. I had a wonderful teacher. I was “put in a box” I was comfortable in the box. She went inside the box and threw me out. That pushed me to move forward. I learned as much as I could. Advanced my class by about two years. I got close to the teacher and we became good friends. Hand building techniques are my favorite. I loved it.
I came out of the closet at the same time. My teacher became my defender. I came out in a very Angel style. I got tired of the bullying. Stood up on my desk and said, ‘Yes, I am gay!” I got a lot of respect after that. Still got bullying from the more religious. They felt compelled to remind me that I was an abomination. Being 6’3” tall was a good defense. The ceramics teacher was my ally. I applied to Roman Catholic seminary at the same time. I went to St. Joseph’s Seminary Country Club at The City of Carolina, Puerto Rico. It no longer exists. Closed about 2 years after I left. I lasted about a year.
A traumatic event finished my time in seminary. It changed me a lot. It made me less trusting. Not everyone had the best intentions. I don’t regret it. I prefer to trust than live in fear. It changed my perspective about how I look at organized religion. Made me more aware of the politics involved. Made me aware that a lot of people do not have the best intentions. It made me stronger. I will write the story down someday. I finished high school and applied to other seminaries. I was moving to the US. I was going to go to the seminary in Miami for the diocese of Orlando. The day before I was to fly they cancelled my entrance. A bishop from PR found out that I was going and called them to tell them I was a danger to the church. I just did not sit down and take the criticism of (my orientation?) They ruined my path. I would have been a priest for 7 years if it would have worked.
I applied to a cooking school here. Within a month I was at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale Culinary arts. I came to the US on Oct. 4, 2003. I entered school. I had just turned 19. I knew nothing about Ft. Lauderdale. I had never been independent. I had $40 in my pocket. No cell phones, I didn’t even know how to send an email. I knew English. I didn’t own jeans or anything flashy. I didn’t know anything.
I did not finish the program in college by two classes. Math was my downfall I was diagnosed with a arithmetic disorder years later. I unfortunately could not do math properly and I could not afford the tutoring.
I found an Episcopal church and became an Episcopalian about 3 years later. I was Roman Catholic until the age of 21.
ER: What are you good at doing? Why?
AR: I am a bad ass cook! I love French and Latin food. Spanish and Mediterranean is my favorite. I like to make great food and see people react to it. I love to see the joy in people when they eat
I am good at moderating difficult conversations. This is a talent I got from my dad. He is incredibly Diplomatic and kind. He worked in banking when most of the others were white Spaniards. He was the darkest person in the room and dealt with a lot of racism. He was the Black VP. Had to put his own bosses in their place. I come from pretty cool parents.
ER: What do you do that might change the world? Why?
AR: I like having conversations about Taboo subjects. I am bothered by the fact that certain things are taboo. Like racism, white supremacy, homophobia, mental health, drug addiction, trauma and abuse. I like to discuss all those subjects because it changes people. By changing your perspective, you gain more respect for people. We focus on the fact that we are human beings, not the differences. I think that can change the world.
ER: What makes you feel like part of a community? Why?
AR: Genuineness. I appreciate when someone says “how are you?” and really means it. That is a sign that there is care and genuine love. I like that. It is a big deal. There is so much superficial stuff out there. Having the liberty of being yourself with a group of people, without the fear of being judged is very important to me.
ER: What is the most interesting thing you have ever done?
AR: I used to be an HIV prevention counsellor. Just left Seminary to talk about safe sex with 16 – 25 year olds. Especially encouraging LGBTQ people to practice safe sex, especially about condoms. Safety and cleanliness. If you are HIV positive, where to go, how to take care of yourself and others. I had to come out of my shell. Spread the info on how and why you take precautions in a non-judgemental way.
I always wanted to be a priest since the age of 6. The bishop froze the ordination process. He wants to restructure the process, but we have not seen any action. I do know that being an outspoken happily gay man will always be an issue for some. I am hoping that whatever he is doing is for a good reason.
ER: What is your greatest accomplishment?
AR: Loving through pain.
ER: What are your regrets?
AR: Not listening as much as I should have. I have been surrounded by some amazing mentors. Listening more would have been a good idea. Standing up for myself a little bit more. That comes with time. Taking care of myself better.
ER: What are your struggles?
AR: I am diabetic, and I am a overeater. That is how I medicate myself. While some may have taken alcohol and drugs, I take food. I was told by the Doctors that when I lose weight, the diabetes will go away. I was recovering well when Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and my grandma passed. Then Parkland happened and we lost Carmen, my Step mom, etc. I went into an internal depression. I had lost my ceramics teacher that had become my stepmother. (I introduced my favorite teacher to my dad.) She died of cancer. She painted, sculpted and taught right after chemo. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She was studying for her doctorate in archaeology but died before she finished.
She died, grandma died, Carmen died, 2 uncles died, one of my mentors died. My dad was hospitalized and almost died from appendicitis. Too much death happened in the same 2-3 weeks. I started eating. Now I am dealing with it and getting some help. I am surrounded by people that are in recovery, so we are constantly looking for ways to make ourselves better. I’m in the perfect place. God couldn’t have designed it better.
ER: What are your greatest adventures?
AR: There is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery about a quarter of a mile from the Monastery where the brothers meet. I visit that monastery at least twice when we meet. I made friends with one of the monks that happens to be the same age as me. He is from the mountains of Tibet. We meditate and pray together. We talk and have tea. I just love the way he sees God. We have similarities. Beads, robes, decorations. Maybe different, but our approach to many things is similar. Other expressions of faith are beautiful. I just don’t get why some people see anything that is different as evil.