Carina A. Ortiz Toro, 35, says she is shy and has been her entire life. So how did she end up on stage leading Zumba classes as the only wheelchair-using instructor in the Caribbean? “In 2013, I went to a gym for the first time as an adult and started training and participating in the group Zumba classes,” says Ortiz Toro, who has spina bifida and lives in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

Soon she was a regular at Zumba events and in 2016 decided she wanted to be on that stage leading the crowd. And by doing so, she made history. “The day I went to take the instructor training, I found out that I’d be the first, and so far only, disabled Zumba certified instructor in Puerto Rico and all the Caribbean,” she says.

Currently she guest-teaches during other instructors’ classes a few times a week and it’s going well. “Because I like to move a lot, people say, ‘You almost kill me, but I love it!’ There are some classes that are too slow or too fast and you get lost and don’t enjoy it,” she says, explaining that she aims for a happy medium. “I want people to sweat, but it’s not just exercise. It’s having fun, having a great time — it’s a combination of both.”

Carina A. Ortiz Toro helps lead a Zumba event in Puerto Rico.

Carina A. Ortiz Toro helps lead a Zumba event in Puerto Rico.

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Ortiz Toro hopes to have a class of her own and is especially interested in possibly leading a class for fellow members of the Puerto Rico chapter of United Spinal Association and for people with all types of disabilities as well. Follow her at facebook.com/cazumbazininstructorpr/.