"Michael, there's someone you must meet," Ramon Alvarez loudly whispered to me during a dinner in Cuba as part of the MITM Americas hosted buyer event 8 years ago.
And with that, he introduced me to Miguel González, father of headline-making Cuban defector Elián González. An entirely unexpected happening. More surreal than Cuba itself. Prodded by my dinner mates, I enquired about Elián, Miguel responded affirmatively. Ramon snapped a photo of me (Michael) with Miguel.
"How many people in your country have a photo like that, huh?" he asked me, with wide smile and happy eyes.
Ramon Alvarez founded GSAR Marketing 30 years ago and he was involved in the meeting and event industry for 8 years earlier than that. Last week he suffered a heart attack and perished.
Gregarious and a lover of culture and life. That's what I understood to be Ramon based on my two trips with him for MITM Americas, the hosted buyer show put on by GSAR Marketing. At the MITM event in Ecuador (2006), I was nearly crippled with altitude sickness for a day; Ramon, decades my senior and more stout, was fine.
By organizing international industry trade shows for North American and European planners in places such as Cuba, Ecuador, Brazil and El Salvador, Ramon helped show the world the meeting industry and the meeting industry the world.
Ramon was one of the first genuine characters I met in the industry. He will be missed.