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Dancing your way to good health through Zumba

The California Farmworker Foundation aims to improve the quality of life of farmworkers through personal and professional development. The Zumba program it organizes for the community aligns with this goal.

Zumba is a form of fitness class in which you burn off calories by dancing to different kinds of lively music, often Latin-American inspired, such as salsa, merengue and samba, and other types of modern music such as hip hop and Bollywood (music from the Indian films).

Hernan Hernandez, executive director for the CFF, said, "Our intention through the Zumba program is to promote physical activity, so one can live a healthy lifestyle by engaging in exercise and health education."

The program targets farmworkers but is open to anyone. Classes are free and are held Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Palm Avenue Middle School cafeteria.

The CFF has sponsored the Zumba classes since 2018.

"We just brought it back in October because of covid," Hernandez said. "Through our initiative, we also cover topics that are of interest to farmworkers, such as health and wellness, nutrition, diabetes prevention and mental health."

Hernandez said the Zumba program is held in Tulare and Kern counties.

"Wasco has always been the community with the most participation. These classes become support groups for women who attend where they can de-stress and be heard."

He added that the Zumba program is important because farmworkers need free access to these types of services.

"Some can not afford a gym membership, so our job is to break down barriers and make it as inclusive as possible for the Wasco community. As a result, we have seen that participants start paying attention to what they drink and eat which translates into them living a better lifestyle."

Maribel Alfaro is the Zumba class instructor in Wasco.

"Through her leadership, she has connected with hundreds of ladies from Wasco. She has changed lives through her volunteerism and coaching," Hernandez said.

Alfaro said of Zumba, "It's not about knowing the steps or how good you are at dancing, it's about letting go, feeling the music and moving your body."

All skill levels are welcomed, and the routines can be tailored to each participant's needs as they can be done in high, moderate and low impact.

"I fell in love with Zumba because you are burning calories while having fun, and it does not feel like a workout; it feels like a party. At the end of the class, you are drenched in sweat but you didn't struggle to get there," Alfaro said.

She added that her motivation and inspiration have come from instructors she has learned from in the past, such as Domingo Benitez, Araceli Rios and Olivia Guzman.

The most exciting part for her is seeing the smiles on people's faces, enjoying it.

"When you see that it makes it all worth it. At the end, they share their appreciation. Doing it for the community is satisfying because you know you are helping someone out."

Maria Quintanilla is a regular.

"It's awesome. I like coming out and meeting new people. The best part is that it keeps us in shape."

Another regular, Maricela Escobedo, said, "You dance away your stress, and it's a good cardio workout. The music gets you pumped with the variety of different styles."

Alfaro invites everyone of all ages to take this opportunity to dance your way to good health.

For more information, call the California Farmworker Foundation at 661-778-0015.


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