I am always so excited to learn about our featured members at CFTY, but I am exceptionally thrilled to share more about one of our Founding Members: Pablo Portillo. In class, my impression of him is that he’s a man of few words, is the king of the assault bike, and always gets the work done. Now, having an opportunity to learn more about him outside of the gym, I received some of the most eloquently written responses to my interview questions that I’ve ever gotten. I don’t feel like his responses need editing and should be read as they were sent to me, so I’ll do my best to share his story in his words as they fit in this article!
Since Pablo is a Founding Member, I wanted to know a little more about his background first. “I’m from Juarez, Mexico, a border city with El Paso, TX. Middle class family, very religious upbringing and strict, but loving, parents.” His mom was a kindergarten teacher and his dad was an Industrial Engineer, and in his early years, he ended up attending four different elementary schools and two middle schools.
“When I was around 13 years old, I started playing a lot of basketball and got more involved at church. Around this time there was a particular moment, during a religious camping retreat, where one of the main takeaways was that with God in your heart, anything could be possible. Take this and add to the fact that one of the life lessons my parents ingrained in me was to dream big and to give my best at whatever I do, I decided to pursue my dreams of becoming an NBA player. Now I laugh a little about it, but back then I was convinced I could do it, and man, I really tried.”
After finishing middle school, Pablo’s parents let him stay with family in Denver to further pursue his dream. “I was laser focused on my goals and right away I got onto the JV team. In my free time, I started reading voraciously and applied myself to school. I was kind of an oddity back then. Without knowing the language, I got straight A’s and got the student of the month award on one occasion. Without knowing, that first year in Denver was going to be the most I practiced my English for many years to come.”However, after a year away, his parents decided it was long enough and had him come back to study in El Paso at a private school, where 99% of the students were also from his hometown of Juarez. Most of the best basketball players from Juarez also went to the El Paso school, so there, he had a great team to play on.
Towards the end of High School, he started to think that maybe he wasn’t totally cut out for the NBA, and in College he decided that Football would be a better fit. “In my third semester, I decided to try out for the Football team, and even though I had never played, nor watched an entire game on TV ever, I got onto the training team, but [then] I had a huge learning curve ahead of me.” Not only did he change direction in the Athletic Department, but also in Academics. He initially had chosen a major in Computer and Electrical Engineering, but eventually switched to Spanish Literature/Creative Writing and Film, and at the same time decided that becoming a professional athlete was just not for him. It was a lot of change, however, here’s where one of my favorite parts in the story begins:
“During this time is also when I started dating a super hot girl that I met in a nightclub in Juarez, but who was also attending [the same school I was.] She was smart, funny, and had a beautiful soul. I would get lost in her eyes and she was an enigma that I couldn’t crack. Later, I discovered she was the first and only person with the ability to drive me crazy, well she still is Diana Chapa.”
Four years into their relationship, Pablo and Diana got married in May 2005 and moved to LA together after their honeymoon, so he could continue the pursuit of his new dream in the Film Industry. “I had talent, passion, and knowledge, but zero connections, so I went back to school, here in LA for a year and a half to study Professional TV and Film Editing. Soon after that, I got my first job, and since then I’ve been carving my career little by little. I’m proud of my personal and professional accomplishments, but I am not satisfied at all. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to accomplish my dreams, but I know that this time I am in the right path and I am not letting go.”
That last statement is in bold because I can feel the determination. After hearing all the twists and turns in Pablo’s path growing up, I am 100% a Team Pablo cheerleader!!
As for CrossFit, I don’t know about you, but Pablo and Diana are one of my favorite couples at the gym – so how did we get so lucky to have them as part of our community? Initially they started at a 24 Hour Fitness, and the whispers of CrossFit kept being mentioned. Still, rather than join a box, they decided to invest in equipment for their home gym… which eventually got put in storage. “We dropped in at several gyms and even had a couple of classes with Becca at Valley CrossFit, but ended up joining a CrossFit gym that was closer to our home and work. Diana had fallen in love with the community aspect of Crossfit, and I had to accept that the coaches and people were great, and we gladly stayed there [instead of taking our stuff out of storage.]”
Coaches do tend to come and go, and by 2014 he felt that “several, if not all of the good coaches were gone” and it was becoming hard to justify the membership cost there. “It was a thing of serendipity, but it coincided with the time CrossFit Training Yard was about to open, literally blocks away from the gym we belonged. I put the ultimatum to Diana and I finally convinced her to switch gyms, just in time to become Founding Members in the house of the Better Human called Becca Voigt Miller. Even though I am the shadow of the Athlete I once was, I really value great coaching and Becca has the natural talent, the passion, the knowledge, the experience, the love and is a true master of her craft. She is the emblem of what a great coach is. There are also some beautiful souls and Diana has made several great friends. I keep to myself most of the time and I am less social than her, but I appreciate the quality of the people that are members at the gym. After 5 years, we still both love everything about CFTY.”
I would write a whole chapter on Pablo if I could, and better yet, I’m sure he could write it in his own words, more captivating than mine. I can’t imagine you’re not on Team Pablo with me by now, which includes cheering for Diana and their kids Xoe and Rex. (By the way, Xoe is a great cheerleader herself!) I’m looking forward to when we can see Pablo’s work on screen and keep yelling “LET’S GO!!” for him in and out of the gym.