Saturday, December 6, 2014

Connecting Latin Culture and Fitness

Photo credits (clockwise): NY Daily News,,
I'm proud to be half Puerto Rican, and my Latin roots are a big part of who I am. I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I love that Zumba connects the Latin culture with health and fitness.

Reframing our culture as part of a healthy lifestyle is critical, because the facts about Hispanics and health are startling.

  • Hispanics have a 21% higher obesity rate compared to Caucasians. (CDC)
  • Hispanics have higher rates of type 2 diabetes and some cancers. (NIH)
  • Hispanic immigrants can struggle to adapt to American diets, often moving into communities dominated by fast food. (HuffPo)
  • Unfortunately, poverty and health are connected. Looking at 2012, 25% of Hispanics were living at the poverty level, in comparison to 11% of Caucasian people. (US HHS Office of Minority Health)
I love that Zumba uses the rhythms of Puerto Rico, Columbia, Mexico, and other Latin countries and cultures to empower people to have fun and be fit. I love that being involved with Zumba gives me an opportunity to connect with my culture without being around a tables of fried pastelillos and platanos! (Side note: I did recently make pasteles from scratch - a delicious dish made from root vegetables... read on for a few pics!)

I think it would be great if we all brought a bit of Latin culture into our Zumba classes. It could be as simple as noting where a song or style is from or giving your students a tip about where they can go for live, authentic Latin music.

Let's help reframe what it means to be Latina - our music can drive our healthy lifestyles and our culture can be part of our solution.

To help us get started, here is a list of common rhythms we use and where they come from. Wepa!
  • Axe - Brazil
  • Bomba y Plena - Puerto Rico
  • Boogaloo - Based on Cuban rhythms, but developed in NY
  • Cumbia - Columbia
  • Mariachi - Mexico
  • Mambo - Cuba
  • Merengue - Dominican Republic
  • Rumba - Cuba
  • Salsa - Puerto Rico (with Cuban roots)
  • Samba - Brazil (there's also Jazz Samba and Bossanova, slower versions of this genre born in the US)
  • Soca - Trinidad originally, now popular throughout the Caribbean
  • Tango - Argentina
  • Tejano - Mexico (includes waltz and cumbia rhythms!)

P.S. Here are some pics of making homemade pasteles... it's a SIX HOUR process but I love that it uses fresh vegetables and spices to create a whole meal that's delicious, fresh, and (mostly) healthy!



  1. What a great post! I have a hard time connecting at Zumba because I don't dance well and sometimes that makes me feel like a bad Latina!! Some of my fave memories are when my grandma made pasteles at Christmas. She's always make me a special one without meat. Even now if my family goes to PR, they horde back a bunch of pasteles in their luggage!

  2. Amazing post in which you have provided information about all aspects of body fitness included healthy food, dancing exercise etc. This information is very useful almost for all people because everyone want perfect and fit body.