Puerto Escondido is known for many things: challenging surf, wild parties, diverse nature, and semi-untouched coastlines. But now it seems as though it could be the next big salsa hub in Mexico.
Twelve years ago you never would have thought the salsa scene here would become what it is today. With one bar that specialized in salsa socials, Congo in Adoquin, this market was relatively untapped. And while there were places in town that gave “dance” classes, none were offering true salsa or bachata lessons.
“When I arrived in 2011, dance was seen as a form of exercise. There were zumba and other aerobic offerings with Latin dance influence. But that was it,” says Diego Armando Ramírez Ramírez. Originally from Oaxaca city, Diego is the founder of Los Bravos, the first Latin rhythm dance school in Puerto Escondido.
“The first day we opened from 5-10 pm. No one arrived until the 9 pm class when 20 students showed up.” Diego then began to hold classes and socials in bars. Eventually, establishments were seeking him out to hold salsa nights. “We found a formula that worked. Class, social, and occasionally a performance.”
In the beginning, it was mostly locals. However, with visitors so interested in getting a true “Latin experience,” salsa was a natural option for a meaningful cultural exchange. Diego and the teachers of Los Bravos partnered with language schools, offering Spanish classes paired with salsa lessons. The salsa community grew as foreigners and locals sought out more classes.
In November 2012, the community was introduced to a whole new level of dance with the first salsa festival. Diego brought dancers from all over Mexico and internationally to perform shows. It became a yearly event until 2019.
“In 2020 I had to close the school because of the pandemic. Because of my other business, I haven’t opened since. But now there are three dance schools in Puerto Escondido and various teachers giving private lessons.”
Puerto Escondido has experienced a huge change since the pandemic. With the minimal restrictions in Mexico during that time and now the option to work remotely, many more people have decided to live here or are extending their visits. And the salsa world has seen the effects.
Today, there are salsa socials every night of the week.
Diego says, “People are coming from all over the world. The beaches, the laid-back atmosphere, and the many options for socials have caused a boom in dance tourism in Puerto Escondido.”
After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their days on the beach and their nights in an environment that exudes joy?
Dayan Sarmiento Álvarez, originally from Chile and now the director of Salsabor Academy in the center of Puerto, says this about salsa: “It’s a language you can use anywhere in the world. Through connection, union, and synchronization, there’s no need for words.”
While Puerto Escondido may not have the level of dance that many other cities in Mexico do like, for example, Oaxaca city, which is home to some of the best salsa dancers and teachers in the world, it does have plenty of options for socials.
What does that mean for the future of salsa dancing in Puerto Escondido?
Omar David Neder, director of Timba Na’Ma, a dance academy located in La Punta, says, “Salsa dancers now have to study. You have to keep learning. There’s no going back. People want more than just the basic steps.”
And on any night out at a salsa social, the passion for dance is evident. There’s a buzzing energy and a hunger for more — better technique, new workshops, live performances. And the teachers and establishments will have to adjust accordingly.
Since there are now so many options for dancing in Puerto Escondido, Diego created an Instagram account (@larutadelasalsapxm) that promotes all salsa and bachata events in Puerto. And now, with over 1,000 followers, he regularly receives messages from dancers around the world.
“The goal of the Instagram account is to bring everyone from the salsa community together. When people ask for classes, I send them information about all three schools and different instructors who give private lessons. From there, people can choose where to go.”
The salsa community will only continue to grow. So it begs the question: just what is it about salsa that provokes such a deep passion among people from so many different cultures?
According to teachers and dancers, it’s a feeling — one that can’t be replicated from any other activity.
Gamaliel Hassan Jiménez Jasso was among the first generation of adolescents in Puerto Escondido who learned salsa and bachata at Los Bravos Academy. He’s now the director of Rincón de la Salsa, a dance academy in Costa Chica. When talking about what dance means to him, Gama says, “It’s a method of expression, when it’s not achieved with words, the body releases it with movement.”
Omar, who first gave classes in Los Bravos upon arriving to Puerto Escondido, says, “Dance is active meditation. It’s therapeutic. When you dance, your mind is there, in the moment.”
The salsa community in Puerto is rapidly evolving, just like the city itself. As we see continued arrivals from other parts of Mexico and abroad, it’s sure to create a shift in the culture. But the hope is that it maintains its essence.
Diego notes one unique quality of this community as compared to other nightlife options. “The salsa scene is safer than other environments. Usually, people don’t consume alcohol excessively and there’s a culture of mutual respect. It’s a safe place of expression and connection. And the community itself needs to keep it that way by rejecting those who don’t respect those values.”
One thing seems evident within the salsa community: if you respect one another and are there for a true love of the art, you’ll be accepted with open arms, no matter your level of dance.
- You can follow @larutadelasalsapxm and the dance academies @timba_nama, @salsabordanceacademy, and @rincondesalsa on Instagram for the most up-to-date information on salsa and bachata events and classes in Puerto Escondido.
El Sol de Puerto