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Deaf Nicaraguan Brothers Become Bodybuilding Legends in Their Sixties

Almost half a century ago, brothers Walter and Arturo Pérez began lifting stones to develop their muscles and now they are “legends” in an agricultural area of Nicaragua, where they train dozens of young people.

Known as the “Hercules Brothers” and the “Bodybuilding Grandparents”, Walter, 61, and Arturo, 62, have faced challenges throughout their lives due to their deafness. They still lift weights in the modest gym they have in Santa Teresa, about 50 km south of Managua.

They are admired by the young people who come to their gym and in just five months on TikTok, they have accumulated more than 175,000 followers.

“They are a legend here in Santa Teresa and I think all of us young people are motivated to come here to the gym, because […] at their age they look magnificent, [with] a body that I think all of us would wish for,” said Ana Saborío, 33.

“They have served as an inspiration to me for a long time […], I was a super skinny person, they started training me, they started telling me what I should do,” said Porfirio Cortés.

Although they stopped participating in tournaments years ago, they have gained tens of thousands of followers on social media since Yahir, Walter’s son, created a profile for them and published images.

Their TikTok profile has accumulated 5.3 million “likes” on their videos with exercise routines and natural shake recipes, which family and friends help produce. Of the five children in a poor family, Arturo and a sister were born deaf. Walter could hear partially, but completely stopped hearing when he was a child.

Their mother taught them to read and write at home because there were no special schools, Walter explains with some words and gestures that Yahir helps translate.

In their childhood they worked selling newspapers on the streets and suffered harassment from other children because they did not speak, and even physical aggression. The situation changed when the brothers started exercising and became stronger, Walter recalls.

Juan Solís, a family friend, says that “they hit them because they were little kids.” “They were in a pitiful state, because I used to say: what is the life of these children going to be like? but what, they have it better than anyone now at this point,” said the 82-year-old man.

Two dollars a week

They made their debuts in bodybuilding tournaments when they were in their twenties. They had to learn to measure time, as they could not hear the music that indicated pose changes in these competitions. With dedication, they achieved 16 medals and about twenty trophies in Nicaragua and other Central American countries, between 1988 and 2010.

Despite these awards, they remained poor in the second poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, and now they survive with their gym, which they combine with modest jobs. Arturo is an occasional barber and Walter does welding and repairs bicycle structures.

The gym occupies an old house whose walls are painted green and white and have mirrors and old photographs of the brothers in competition poses.

The lack of money motivated Walter to learn welding to build most of the machines in the gym. Each client pays about two dollars per week, an amount barely sufficient for the maintenance of the premises, and the brothers seek donations to continue with it.

They entered the world of bodybuilding as teenagers, after observing a burly new neighbor who lifted weights. Astonished by his bulk, they began exercising with weights they made with stones, cement and pipes, Walter explains.

Hernán Flores, a renowned Nicaraguan bodybuilder, invited them to train at his gym in Managua. In 1988 Arturo won his first national tournament, and Walter came in second. They continued competing for two decades.

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