Elena was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the U.S. in 1961 as a result of Castro's revolution, living in New Mexico with a foster family until her own family was able to leave. A resident of the Washington , D.C. area since then,she studied architecture at Catholic University, gaining her first exposure to the arts working at Water Hopps' Washington Gallery of Modern Art. She started painting in 1970, and studied at the Corcoran School of Art. Elena studied botanical art at Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration, and earned a Certificate in 2015. After retiring from work as an engineering professional, she is currently an full-time artist and teaches botanical art. She and her husband Herb, a writer, live in Front Royal, Va.