It’s been three years since Puente held its first Zumba class in the gym at Pescadero Elementary. Even in isolated Pescadero, the fitness class – which incorporates elements of salsa, merengue and other improvised Latin dances – was an instant hit. “People got hooked on the first day,” recalls Rita Mancera, Program Director at Puente and one of three Puente staff members who double as Zumba instructors. Today, twice-weekly classes are often so packed – with up to 50 adults and children jumping, spinning, and grinning – that there is barely room to move.
On February 26, Puente kicked off its 15-year anniversary celebrations by holding the first-ever local ‘Zumbathon’ – a Zumba marathon that doubles as a fundraiser to keep the Zumba classes going at their current level. The event raised $737, slightly short of its fundraising goal of $1,000.
Although Puente receives support from the Bella Vista Foundation for Zumba, Mancera explains that Puente needs to raise money to cover childcare and to replace the sound system that belongs to the La Honda-Pescadero School District. Zumba classes have low overhead and are donation-based. Puente does pay its instructors and covers ongoing training obtained through their membership to the Zumba instructor network.
Zumba lover Erika Vera, 33, has been coming to classes since they began in 2010. Vera loves to dance, and she says Zumba changed her life. She’s lost weight and, during dance sessions, enjoys the opportunity to focus on her body instead of the day-to-day problems that may await her at home.
“I feel healthier and I’m always full of energy,” says Vera, who definitely needs energy for her 3 children. “Before, I was fuller and I didn’t even have the motivation to go out and walk. But now I do.”
The South Coast, of course, has no fitness gym or dance club. Field and nursery workers have little time to exercise and often lack the time and resources to eat healthy food to avoid problems like obesity and diabetes.
Zumba became a worldwide craze after a Colombian dance instructor presented it to a fitness class in Miami 10 years ago. Today Zumba classes extend well into both hemispheres and will shortly be introduced to Russia, India and China. Zumba came to Pescadero at the initiative of Visión y Compromiso, a California-based nonprofit that advocates for community health. Visión y Compromiso brought instructors to Pescadero to teach the first few Zumba classes at Puente, after which Puente took over.
Zumba is joyful and it’s communal. It’s about sweating, shaking your hips, and laughing when you mess up a routine. It tends to attract a lot of mothers like Erika Vera, and children as well – some as young as 10.
Gaby Flores, 21, leads Zumba classes at Puente. She’s held a number of jobs at Puente over the years, but teaching Zumba is her favorite.
“I like it because for an hour, people can forget about everything and everyone else. I like that I can bring happiness to them, even if it’s in a small way,” she says. More than 171 adults, youth and children have attended twice-weekly Zumba classes since its most popular program began in 2010. In 2013 alone, 83 participants have attended. In a special, targeted Rally campaign, Puente is trying to meet a $5,000 gap in fundraising for the program. To help, go to www.rally.org/puente.
To learn more about Zumba or to donate, please call Puente at (650) 879-1691.