By Karen Cortés
Don’t blink. If you do, you might miss Joyce Bolaños. She could be working on renovations on one of her Hartford properties, busy with one of VIVA Hartford Television’s four ongoing productions– or on her way to Trinity College for fencing practice.
The 49-year-old Bolaños is training twice weekly with fencing master Juan Carlos Changanaqui at Trinity College in preparation for international competition with the Veterans’ League for fencers over 50. As competitions in Puerto Rico and Curacao draw near, you’ll find her there six days a week.
Next year may mark Bolaños’ debut with the Veterans’ League, but she is no novice. Fencing is a lifelong pursuit passed to her through her mother’s family. Her fencing career took a circuitous route through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as her family followed her father’s career with Hess Oil.
As a teen, Bolaños represented Puerto Rico as a member of the Puerto Rican National Fencing Team, and competed extensively throughout the Caribbean, South America and Europe, winning the Copa de Esgrima German Rieckehoff. After college, she studied fencing in Paris before returning to the U.S. Virgin Islands and a job with Louis Vuitton. Today, Bolaños is Secretary General for the Virgin Islands Fencing Federation.
Fencing became a way for Bolaños to give back to her community in the Virgin Islands. After her first son Miguel was born, she became aware of the lack of activities for young people, and she established the Blades Fencing Club of St. Thomas, a competitive club for young fencers age 10-14.
“For the first time in the history of Virgin Islands fencing, young fencers ages 10-14 were competing in Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. Two fencers even went to USFA nationals in Plano, Texas. It was one of the most satisfying fencing experiences of my life,” says Bolaños.
She came to Connecticut in 2000, and in keeping with family tradition, sought out a fencing coach for Miguel, now 24, and Andres, 14, who today both train with Changanaqui. Andres is poised to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Jainero for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Bolaños encourages men and women of all ages to enter the sport, but sees special qualities in the young ladies who take up fencing. “Girls that learn fencing are not ambivalent about themselves. They are role models for other young ladies. They have self-confidence, and fencing really brings it out,” she says.
Then there’s VIVA Hartford Television. The four programs that Bolaños is producing with VIVA Hartford Television are geared toward a younger demographic. “The next generation doesn’t speak Spanish,” says Bolaños. Her programs are aired on Hartford Public Access 5 and as video blogs. She hopes to see her productions picked up by MundoFOX network. “We’re small, with big ideas,” she says.
Bolaños is also the only Latina member of the board of The Hartford Preservation Alliance, which focuses on educating the public about preservation issues, convening and collaborating with interested parties for positive change, advocating for rehabilitation and proper “mothballing” of older structures, and placing appropriate properties on state and federal historic registries.
She practices what she preaches. She has already renovated three properties in Hartford. With one property on the market, Bolaños is looking forward to its sale– and a much needed family vacation to Honeymoon Beach on Water Island of the U.S. Virgin Islands. “As soon as it is sold, it’s phone off, piña colada on!”
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By Karen Cortés