Forget CrossFit. The most popular exercise class in Santo Domingo is a free hour-long group exercise session held in the middle of a closed park avenue, part of an effort to fight the nation's obesity woes.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Mirador del Sur, a Royal palm tree-lined park with views of the Caribbean, is normally a quiet sanctuary in this bustling capital. But every other weekday afternoon a trailer truck parks at its entrance, pulsing technobeats erupt from giant speakers, and exercise ensues – en masse.
Forget CrossFit. The most popular exercise class in this city of 1.5 million is a free hour-long group exercise session held in the middle of a closed park avenue.
What began nine years ago as a public service from the national lottery system has become a ritual for hundreds of Dominicans who brave the Caribbean heat to sweat through a calisthenics routine.
"We get 200 or more people for every class," says Ramon Rosario, who helps organize and run the classes for LEIDSA, the lottery system. The lottery is required to spend a certain percentage of its profits on public programs. "People from all classes of society and all parts of the city come. They have come to depend on it."
The draw is part economical – gym membership fees here can rival those in the US, although Americans earn more in three months than Dominicans do in a year, on average – and part fun.
"You're in this big group, so it feels like you're part of something. It goes by quickly," says Christina Baustista, a middle-aged woman who takes the class regularly in an effort to lose weight.