IRAIDA MUNOZ AND RUBEN DE JESUS: MOTHER AND SON FIND A HOME WORKING TOGETHER AT THE Y
Iraida Munoz and her husband moved from Puerto Rico to the United States with their two sons, Ruben Misael and Ruben Ernesto, in 2010. They first lived in Gardner, Massachusetts, where her husband’s job was located. They relocated to Nashua a few years later. Iraida researched the area to find a community with good schools for her sons and good community resources. They settled in Nashua.
Iraida has always been community-minded and her first job in Nashua was at Southern New Hampshire Services as a Limited English Proficiency Coordinator. In that role she helped refugees and immigrants get settled in the region. This included not only those who spoke Spanish, Iraida’s first language, but people who communicated in many different languages. “I saw a lot of sad stories. People truly in need. They were suffering.”
Iraida has worked at the Y since 2019. She started as a volunteer. “Working at the Y is my hobby. It’s how I balance my day job, working for the City of Nashua in the Welfare Department. It’s often a heartbreaking and stressful job. I love sharing my heritage and love sharing this through its music and dance. I’m able to do this at the Y,” she said. Iraida is a Zumba instructor and also teaches Latin Rhythm, a class she created, and Tumbao, a Latin dance class. “I describe my classes as Latin dance parties. We have fun and it’s a workout. All levels are welcome. I offer modifications for people who can’t jump or are recuperating after surgery. Once they learn the basic moves, it’s easy to follow along. Latin Dance is a mixture of Salsa dance, Merengue dance, Bachata dance, and Reggaeton dance. Iraida has not lived in Puerto Rico for 12 years, but her parents and a sister are there. “My roots are there. Nashua feels like home now, but I can’t forget my roots.” Introducing and engaging Y members in Latin dance is a way for Iraida to celebrate her heritage and stay connected.
Her family’s YMCA story started in 2012 when they joined. “I was new in town and needed to connect with others. My boys and I engaged well with the mission of the Y. It’s how I want to raise my family.” She shared, “When Ruben was young, he was super shy. We moved from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts for a year and half, then we moved to Nashua.” Ruben did the “Kids on the Move” program, a program he loved because he got to be in the wellness center. When he was in fifth grade through ninth grade, Ruben was active in the Y’s Leaders Club program. “A highlight was going to Leaders School in the summer for a week. Everyday there felt like an adventure. We got to pick our classes. We were on-the-go from 7am to 5pm. There are a lot of traditions at Leaders School. I remember we created chants, like parodies of songs, to be selected to enter into the lodge for lunch first. It’s great memories,” he said. Ruben also attended regional YMCA Leaders Club rallies held in Connecticut, and sponsored by the Southington-Cheshire YMCA . “It’s super fun to reconnect with Leaders from around New England and New York. We pick up where we left off when we get to see each other.”
Ruben is in college now and works at the Nashua Y as a wellness center representative, a position he has held for four years. “I like talking to people and it’s great meeting the members,” he said. He is underway in earning his certification to become a trainer.
Iraida loves working at the Y. “I’m very much into the multi-cultural aspect of our community and equality for all.” She shared that in her group exercise classes, she loves incorporating holidays into the fun. “We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in March and we have fun planned for Cinco de Mayo.” Want to join in on the fun? Stop by the Nashua Y on May 5 at 5:30pm and dance in Iraida’s Latin Rhythm class!
Iraida and Ruben, we love that your mother/son connection includes your love for and work at the Y.
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