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The longtime co-owner of Mount Pleasant’s Don Juan Restaurant has died. A police report confirms that MPD and paramedics responded late last night to the home of Rosa Candida Ruiz Canales, where she was pronounced dead. There is no discussion of foul play. She was 48.
Ruiz started working at the restaurant in 1989 and became an owner with her husband and partner Alberto Ferrufino in 1992.
Mount Pleasant adored Ruiz. “She was a staple in the neighborhood,” says Alex Kramer from Dos Gringos Cafe. “She and the family have been here as long as I can remember. I’m sorry, I’m just shocked by the news. It’s a great loss for us and my love is with the family.”
“I grew up in Mount Pleasant as a child and I remember stopping by Don Juan after school for some cheese pupusas,” says customer Lily Najera. “The neighborhood lost a great person. She was always cheerful and enjoyed interacting with customers. Often times, she would be working alongside the waitstaff serving food. She was always hands on. She will be missed dearly.”
Yasmin Romero-Latin is the ANC commissioner of 1D04 and advocates for the Hispanic community in Mount Pleasant. She knew Ruiz for almost 23 years.
“She helped a lot of people all the time,” Romero-Latin says. She points to 2008 when there was a massive fire in Mount Pleasant that displaced hundreds of residents. “Rosa came out and said, ‘All people come to my restaurant.’ She closed the restaurant for customers and made hot chocolate, coffee, and prepared food. The people came from the building that was burning. Everybody was there. She helped a lot.”
Ruiz also personally comforted Romero-Latin in 2004 when she found out her son had been killed in her home country. “She was a very good mother,” Romero Latin continues. “A very good friend. She worked hard.”
Romero-Latin says she goes to Don Juan Restaurant on Wednesdays and Fridays almost every week. But now she knows it won’t be the same.
Don Juan Restaurant, 1660 Lamont St. NW; (202) 667-0010; donjuandc.com