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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Zumba in El Alto

During our homestays in El Alto, I had the privilege of going to Zumba classes with my host mom, Ximena. Normally, Ximena goes three times a week, which anyone who has taken Zumba in Bolivia knows is quite intense. But I was excited for the challenge, and having gone, I’d say that Bolivian Zumba is super (soo-pear!) fun.

The first time, I showed up in my joggers and t-shirt, completely unprepared for what was to come. The class was already bopping when Ximena and I came in. We dropped our shared backpack in the back, greeted her friend with a kiss on the cheek, and joined the crowd of dancers. Reggaeton blasted from the speakers and the bass carried the energy in the room.

I quickly realized that my dancing skills were somewhat behind the others in the class, but I didn’t mind. Someday, I hope I can move my hips the same way my fellow Zumba-ers can—it’s something you have to see at least once in your life. I kept up the best I could, and when I couldn’t, I enjoyed watching everyone salsa and groove to the music. The passion in the room was tangible. The people who came in halfway through dressed as the heist men from La Casa de Papel? Amusing.

After two hours of dancing, Ximena and I called it a day and headed home. On the way, we shared some bread and candy and talked about her life in Bolivia and my life in the United States.

Having had such a great time at my first Zumba class, I invited Meagan and Cat to come to the next one. I introduced them to Ximena, and we all walked to Bam Bam Fitness Club together. Once again, the class was already in full swing when we walked through the door.

We each found a spot and started moving along with our enthusiastic instructor and the music. All of us were taken with the energy in the room. People of all ages had come just to dance, move freely, and enjoy the music. Sometimes we could keep up; sometimes we couldn’t. But the whole time, we had a blast shaking our hips, doing countless squats, and challenging our altitude endurance every time our instructor grinned and yelled “más rápido” or “más abajo.”

Overall, Zumba was a lovely way to bond with my host mom and the El Alto Bam Bam Fitness Club community. To quote Cat, “Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It was really nice to dance and listen to music. And to feel part of the community in a different way.”

Gracias, Ximena. Que bailemos otra vez en el porvenir.