Erick Santana’s road to adulthood was never paved in gold. Growing up in a low-income, super strict household, Erick was forbidden to go to birthday parties, have sleepovers, or experience ‘normal’ things that boys his age were privy to. He found solace in a small tape deck that served as his favorite childhood toy.
“I used to tape music off of radio stations,” recalls Erick. “The only form of expression I had was my music, my mirror, and my dancing; it liberated me.”
In the early 2000’s, Erick became a father for the first time to son Prince and soon found himself in the challenging situation of raising him on his own. As a single dad, he instantly became motivated to ensure his son would never live to see the hardships he had experienced himself as a young boy. He wanted to prove success could be achieved with hard work and determination.
In 2004, Erick was laid off from his full-time job and was desperate to find a way to earn a viable paycheck. That’s when he randomly stumbled into a Zumba® class, drawn to it by his interest in music, dance, and fitness.
“I was just seeking a way to de-stress,” says Erick. “I started as a participant and had no intentions of becoming an instructor, seeing as I was too focused on finding a desk job that would provide for my family.”
That changed when his Zumba Instructor introduced him to Zumba fitness creator, Beto Perez, who saw a spark in Erick and urged him to become a licensed instructor – a decision that would shape the Santana boys’ futures.
“The Zumba program has completely impacted my life,” explains Erick. “It empowered me to conquer the hardships and adversities of life and find purpose through it.”
And that purpose was his son. Unable to afford a reliable car or a babysitter, Erick was forced to bring Prince to all his classes via public transportation, with diaper bag, formula, and stroller in tow.
Eventually, Erick was able to earn a steady paycheck and buy a decent car that wouldn’t overheat, breakdown, or announce their arrival too far in advance.
“I was able to get off government assistance and give my son a fair chance in life, like everybody else,” says Erick. “A huge accomplishment for me is that I’ve succeeded with a foundation of morality, and the pride to have built it all from the ground up.”
Erick hopes to instill his morals into Prince, who has seen the impact of song and dance from day one.
“I love the energy that Zumba fitness brings out if of its audience,” says Prince, now 15 years of age. “I believe that Zumba is a perfect blend of fitness and dance that allows you to let go and have more fun.”
Having watched his dad teach classes for years, he seeks to go down the same path.
Prince says, “What I admire most about my father is his determination, and his drive to continue to work and do his best despite the circumstances and obstacles that come his way. I’d like to follow in his footsteps and one day achieve just as much as my father has.”
In the future, Prince plans to become a Zumba Instructor, putting him on the exact path he aspires to be on.
While they have shared countless memories – going to Disney World for the first time (a monumental milestone for Erick, who never went as a kid), dancing to Pitbull, watching movies, and working out together – Erick is perhaps most excited to witness Prince pursuing his passions.
“Music is our umbilical cord; it connects us like twins,” Erick explains, proudly. “I would feel honored to see Prince carry on our Zumba legacy. He is my living, breathing accomplishment.”
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