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 a Zumba instructor.
Now, 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 will hold a ‘Zumbathon’ – a Zumba marathon session and fundraiser to ensure the Zumba classes can continue at their current level. Although Puente receives support from the Bella Vista Foundation for Zumba, Puente needs to raise $1,000 to help cover childcare and to buy a new sound system to replace the one that belongs to the La Honda-Pescadero School District. Puente uses the sound system for Zumba classes but it needs replacing, according to Mancera. Although Zumba classes have low overhead overall and classes are donation-based, Puente does also pay its instructors and it also covers on-going training obtained through their membership to the Zumba instructor network.
The Zumbathon, a longer version of the typical Zumba class, will occur at the Pescadero High School gym to accommodate up to 100 people. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Puente or by calling (650) 879-1691.
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, she 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 came to Pescadero in 2010 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 became a worldwide craze after a Columbian 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 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 according to her 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.
The Zumbathon will be held at the Pescadero High School at 5:30 pm on February 26. Tickets are $10. To purchase Zumbathon tickets or to learn more, contact Puente at (650) 879-1691. Volunteers are also still needed- contact Abby at email@example.com if you are interested.