When Pigs Fly
“In 1992 my parents and I were in Cozumel, Mexico”, Patrick Gonzalve recounts “we’d rented little scooters and every quarter mile or so we’d stop at a little shack on the beach and have a margarita or a beer and then keep going onto the next one. At about the fifth stop, I told my parents, ‘This is what I want to do with the rest of my life; I want to have a shack on the beach, with my toes in the sand and sell margaritas and beer’. To that, my mom replied, ‘That’ll be the day that pigs fly.’”
Patrick Gonzalve was your average American middle school algebra teacher. From a young age, he’d followed the path set before him- he got a degree, got a job and bought a house. That house happened to have four bedrooms, a three car garage and a different box from Amazon delivered on the porch everyday. He took ownership of it one month before the big 2008 housing bubble burst and recalls how, almost overnight, it went from being worth $385K to $198K.
At that same time, No Child Left Behind legislation passed in Placerville, California, where he was teaching. Practically overnight, once again, he was suddenly deemed unqualified to teach his class. Jobless, he went on interviews, but 5,000 other teachers had also been affected by this change and he’d find himself interviewing against as many as 70 other candidates. Some of them were first year teachers who would work for a pittance compared to him. Despite going back to school for two years to obtain his Masters in Administration, he was unable to find another job in his field.
For many of us, it takes lows like this for us to rise. In Patrick’s words, “when life handed me lemons, I started making margaritas!”
“With that memory from Cozumel fresh in my mind, I turned the keys to my home into to the bank. I sold everything I owned and started scouring the Caribbean for my future beach bar.” He seriously considered five different spots- Dominican republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and Belize. When he happened upon Placencia, a small fishing village in the south of Belize, he knew he’d found what he’d been looking for. “It was so laid back and the people I met were very friendly. Placencia wasn’t too established, but had a trajectory for growth and reasonable real estate prices. The timeline for that growth seemed to line up with my business plan.” He bought a piece of land and, with the last of his money and some help from his parents, built his bar. He named it The Flying Pig- an ode to a seemingly impossible dream come true.
A far cry from his former life, Patrick says, “Jumping in with both feet was the best decision I ever made.” A people person and philanthropist at heart, Patrick now spends his days meeting new people, making margaritas and helping bring awareness to good community causes. “I like to drink my beer watching the dolphins and sail boats go by. I’ll kick myself and realize that there are people who save up for a year or more to do what I’m doing for my afternoon off.” 365lbs when he first arrived in Belize, he’s now weighing in at a much healthier 250lbs and claims it has everything to do with a simpler lifestyle. In his words, “Eggs aren’t always perfectly round here, the bread doesn’t last more than two days and the milk goes bad quickly. Sometimes we can’t get tomatoes, but that’s because we eat what’s in season. Eating more locally and naturally happens by default here”.
“I was a beach bum without a beach. I knew I belonged by the sea. Belize has allowed me to become who I was always meant to be.” So, it’s with his toes in the sand and a drink in his hand that he encourages anyone with an ‘impossible’ dream or an insatiable passion to remember that sometimes pigs really do fly.
I was a beachbum without a beach…Belize has allowed me to become who I was always meant to be.