On a quest for adventure, Lelys traveled to Spain from Venezuela in 2016. An accomplished language teacher of Portuguese and Italian, her career plan A was to make her living in Europe teaching languages. That’s when she met her Spanish husband to be—a long time Bostonian— on vacation in Madrid. The couple’s bond soon grew into a decade-long-distance relationship before Lelys made Boston her home.
She soon discovered that her international certificates as a Zumba instructor, career plan B, rather than her language teaching credentials morphed into her plan A. Being a Zumba instructor, ignited a passion in Lelys and attracted and inspired students of all ages and body types. Her students say going to fitness class with Lelys is like coming to a great party! Lelys adapts the fitness routines to the needs of the students, always encouraging them to top their personal best without shaming or pushing too hard.
This interview was recorded just before the 2020 lockdown when Lelys had plans of opening her own brick and mortar fitness studio in Boston. Without skipping a beat, she brought her Zumba classes online to great reviews. Hopefully once the pandemic is behind us she’ll open her doors to her loyal students who follow her anywhere for her unique brand of fitness fun.
On a quest for adventure, Lelys traveled to Spain from Venezuela in 2016. An accomplished language teacher of Portuguese and Italian, her career Plan A was to make her living in Europe teaching languages. That’s when she met her Spanish husband-to-be—a long-time Bostonian— on vacation in Madrid. The couple’s bond soon grew into a decade long, long-distance relationship before Lelys made Boston her home.
She soon discovered that her international certificates as a Zumba instructor—career Plan B—rather than her language teaching credentials, morphed into her Plan A. Being a Zumba instructor ignited a passion in Lelys and attracted and inspired students of all ages and body types. Her students say going to fitness class with Lelys is like coming to a great party! Lelys adapts the fitness routines to the needs of the students, always encouraging them to top their personal best without shaming or pushing too hard.
This interview was recorded just before the 2020 lockdown when Lelys had plans of opening her own brick and mortar fitness studio in Boston. Without skipping a beat, she brought her Zumba classes online to great reviews. Hopefully once the pandemic is behind us she’ll open her doors to her students who follow her anywhere for her unique brand of fitness fun.
Deborah: So Lelys, what were you just saying about your reasons for coming to this country, as you said they were different from other peoples’?
Lelys: Yes, I am lucky because I became an immigrant for love. I met my husband in Spain in 2016. I was looking for new, new experiences, new ways because my country, Venezuela, has a hard political situation and looking for opportunities. I was working, I was with my family. I was good, thanks God, but I was looking for new things. Adventure. And I went to Spain because my grandfather came from Canaria.
Deborah: Canary Islands?
Lelys: Canary Islands. And I went to Spain and I say, maybe I can do something there. I had studied language. I thought that once I was living in Italy, that was my big dream in this life. But I came from Spain. I went to Spain to see what I can found there. I met my husband. My husband is from Spain from Madrid. We met in Madrid. I was visiting my friends there and he was visiting his family. And he lived here in Boston for many years and he was on vacation when we met. That is why that I came to Boston. I never imagined to came to Boston. Then we established a relationship. I traveled for 10 year to Boston. And finally we decide that I move here.
Deborah: So it was a long-term, long-distance relationship.
Lelys: Yes. It was.
Deborah: Wow. What were some of the biggest obstacles for you coming to this country?
Lelys: The weather. Venezuela is like this spring is spring time, the most part of the year. When I live in Caracas, it’s spring weather. Summer. But never is it so cold. I think that the only places colder than Boston are Canada and Siberia.
Lelys: Yes. I think that I am not a traditional immigrant because when you talk with immigrants, they had a hard process to begin here. People that pass, borderlines, people that need to separate from family.
Deborah: Did you leave family behind?
A “Light” Immigrant/06:30
Lelys: Yes, I leave my mom, my sister. But I came here because I want. And it’s a personal decision, but many people came here because they were forced to come here. Because they needed to leave the life that they had. People that suffer persecution. People that suffer hungry or social problems, hard social problem. I am a light immigrant.
Deborah: A light immigrant?
Deborah: Interesting. I never heard that term before.
Lelys: You can use it. I leave you. You can use it. For that because I can, and I have security when I move here. My husband lived here for many years. I have, I had a house to come. I had food. I have everything. He was my support thanks for my husband and that, that made my life better. That I feel better. I miss my way there. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss my environment, but I feel comfortable here too, because I’m not alone.
Lelys: And I came because I want. And I came for love.
Deborah: Right, right. So you and your husband are both immigrants and you’ve made a decision to make the United States and Boston your home. What’s the biggest reason why you’ve stayed here as opposed to living in another country?
Lelys: Because he lived here.
Deborah: Ok. Ok.
Lelys: That was because maybe he was living in Memphis. I will be in Memphis.
Deborah: Can you say a few words about the political situation in Venezuela today?
Lelys: When I came, even five years ago, political and economic situation in Venezuela was bad, but, now it’s worse and it’s getting worse because we didn’t, we have not changed in all this time. It’s around 20 years that we go back and back and back. People is leaving the country because they need new opportunity. People desire to live better. Nobody wants to leave their own country. Only adventure people, or their reason, for example, like me, that you meet a guy in another country, but nobody wants to leave their own country or be forced to leave. But living in Venezuela now is really hard. I continue to go because my mom is there. My mom needs my help and she’s getting a bit older Yes. And she needs you need help. And I feel grateful to be here. And help her because if we live together, we can make company, but it’s hard to live there. But if I stay outside, I can visit her. But it’s not frequently, but twice a year maybe I can go to my country and visit my mom, but I can help her better than if I will, if I will be there.
The Fitness World/ 10:43
Deborah: Okay. Tell me a little bit about how you got started in the fitness world. I’m so impressed with all the certifications and the training that you’ve had. It’s extraordinary.
Lelys: Well, I am a language teacher. But no English teacher, of course. I teach Italian and Portuguese in Venezuela. That was my bachelor’s degree, but in Venezuela or in Latin countries you need to make different things. When I came to the United States, I make a Plan B. Plan B was teach Zumba. I take the certification in Venezuela and I say, does this mean international certification? And I say, well, if I move to Spain or United States I can teach Zumba there, but plan B become Plan A. When I start to teach Zumba, I see the fitness world is a world. And I, start to met people and I met a good friend that is from Venezuela, too. She’s from my same city where I grew up, but we met here in Boston. She’s around 20 years living here. She pushed me on to make another thing all the time. I was afraid about my language and she said, “You can do it. Come on. We can take another, another license.” And I’m very grateful to meet this lady, because she was, she inspired me to make things that I think, my language is stopped to do it.
That’s it that I start to take a license to teach with weights, weight classes, then we start with pilates. I am in love with pilates classes is amazing world. And that’s it. I continue educating in different disciplines between inside Zumba and in other disciplines too, because we, we take together for example Aqua Zumba, toning, Zumba toning, Zumba Kicks, another discipline inside the Zumba world, but we take other certifications outside of Zumba.
Deborah: So that’s a whole world that was your Plan B. So when you were in Venezuela, you weren’t into fitness teaching?
Lelys: No, I was.
Deborah: What was the moment when you decided that was going to be the work that you would do here?
Lelys: I love exercise. All my life I do something. I run, I went to the gym. Aerobics, I love aerobics classes, and I love dancing. And Zumba is the mix of dancing and exercise. That was perfect for me. I say, okay, I should do that. That’s it that I become a Zumba instructor.
Deborah: Ah. Aside from your work and fitness Lelys, what were some of the hobbies that you had when you were in Venezuela? I’d like to hear about those. I know you have many, many interests. Tell me about the mandalas.
Lelys: Coloring mandalas was old fashioned hobby that I have been when I lived in
Venezuela I usually coloring mandalas.
Deborah: Do you draw the original mandala?
Lelys: No, no. I bought the mandala book only for coloring. I like to mix these combinations with colors. Before the study language, I start to study architecture. Maybe, from that I bring that kind of thing that works with forms and colors.
Deborah: Interesting. Yes. Wow. Did you want to be an architect?
Deborah: When did you change your mind?
Lelys: Oh, life! If you don’t make the change, life makes the change for you.
Deborah: Oh yes.
Lelys: Then I passed for letters when I studied language. And now it’s the fitness. I don’t know what, what is the next step.
All things Connect/15:52
Deborah: It’s all about creative energy. I feel like people have said to me, how could you teach yoga and do writing and do all these things? And I, I think everything’s related. It’s about removing the obstacles inside your body and your mind that keep the life force from moving around your body.
Lelys: Yeah. I agree with you. Everything is connected.
Deborah: Everything is connected.
Lelys: When you think about, biologist that is study electrical engineer, for example. And you say, what, what are different things? No, they connection that they have about the equipment. Different things, but everything is connected.
Link to Venezuela/16:51
Deborah: Absolutely. And I think it makes learning more in more permanent when you’re learning something and how it’s connected in so many different ways. Did you bring something with you from Venezuela that you’ve always kept with you? Some little object or something that?
Lelys: Well, I bring my dog.
Deborah: Your dog?
Lelys: My dog. That was my daughter for 16 years. But he passed, she passed away three years ago.
Deborah: What kind of dog was she?
Lelys: It was a beautiful and lovely golden retriever. Beautiful. Everybody loved her, but this is the bad part to have a dog that they live less than us.
Deborah: Right. Shorter.
Lelys: Yes. when I talked with my husband I say, “I’m going to United States. I move. Only if I can go with my dog.”
Deborah: What was her name?
Lelys: Yes. Beautiful. But after she passed away, three years became really hard because she was, like I told everybody, she was my bond with Venezuela.
Deborah: Oh, she was like—
Lelys: Because she connected me, how would you say?
Deborah: Like a link to it?
Lelys: My link with Venezuela, my memories from Venezuela seen through her. She was a little part of my life in Venezuela here because we share many things in Venezuela. She bring me that the memory is my link with my country, with my roots. Was the only thing that I can bring with me. When she leave was really hard for me.
Deborah: I can hear that.
Lelys: After that, I just started to work more to have my mind busy in other things.
Deborah: Speaking of which, keeping busy with your mind, what, what are your dreams right now?
Lelys: I think to have another dog.
Lelys: My husband has agreed to it. Finally. And I want to live quiet. That’s it. That I want live quiet, enjoy the things that I do.
Deborah: And your business.
Lelys: And my business. I love to bring joy and health to people. This is the part that I love more from my work.
Deborah: You’re making such a big contribution. By making people have fun and get fit at the same time. You just generate that when you came the night that the Mayor was there and you had him exercising in front of everybody. We could see that you inspire people.
Lelys: Well. My students say that they want to come to my classes because I’m not military bootcamp classes. For example, they say that I push on them to make them exercise become healthier.
Deborah: Are you saying that they like it because you’re not moving military or because you are military?
Lelys: Are not a military, but softly, I immerse them in the exercise.
Deborah: Great. Great. Well, thank you so much Lelys for sharing your journey
Lelys: Thank you for inviting me.
Deborah: And it’s been great talking with you. Hope to see you again soon.
Lelys: Thank you.
Deborah: As I listened to Lelys share how she is an immigrant because of love, I realized that she radiates love everywhere. Not just for the love of her husband or her love for her dear departed canine campanion Sukka, Lelys is someone who radiates a loving nature to whomever she meets. This accounts for her loyal students who follow her to whatever studio she might be teaching from or virtually online. Her optimistic nature and her passion for health and fitness inspire all who meet her and I am sure success will follow her wherever she goes.