‘I was motivated to live differently, and I began experiencing many different joys that I had never felt before.’
“I came to the U.S. in the early 2000s because in Ecuador there was an economic collapse, and the country declared a state of crisis. There was no money circulating and no opportunity to get ahead. I worked in any job I could get, like a dishwasher, a delivery guy for Domino’s and a furniture mover. I was a tractor trailer driver for many years and would drive all over the country. I was considered an essential worker during the pandemic.
“On May 27, my truck flipped over on the highway while I was carrying a trailer. Luckily, people helped me get out of the truck. Different vertebrae in my back were fractured, and I also fractured my sternum, collar and ribs. After that, it was very difficult for me to walk or have any basic movement.
“During that time, I would think about my life. In Ecuador I owned a restaurant and always loved to cook. I’m 51, and I decided that this was my second chance at life; this time I was going to go for it and do it differently because life is so short. I decided to open Swan Latin Cuisine, a deli in Patchogue. We make Ecuadorian and Latin food.
I learned that you are able to start over and pursue goals at any age.
“There are so many little things that go into being a business owner that I never knew, so that was a big challenge. Swan Lake Park is nearby, and most of the businesses in the area start with the name Swan, so I decided to introduce the Latin cuisine into something that already exists to bridge everything. I also really like swans and wanted to keep the name in town!
“People from all different ethnicities have been coming together at my restaurant and I get to share my cooking with them. I’m really interested in people enjoying my food, especially my favorite thing to make, a soup called encebollado de pescado—a fish and onion soup-which is a very popular Ecuadorian dish. Before the accident, I did what needed to be done to pay the bills, but I wasn’t necessarily happy.
“Afterwards, I was motivated to live differently, and I began experiencing many different joys that I had never felt before. I learned that you are able to start over and pursue goals at any age. I hope that other people will pursue something that also makes them happy so they can experience those little joys in life too.”