May 2021 – I bring you another interview, another one a little different than the others. The person I invited to this chat, I did not meet on social media, well, I kinda did actually. I met her through my cousins Alex and Auranyd Alvarado.
I had the wonderful opportunity to invite another amazing person to a cup of coffee on my blog, and she graciously accepted. This time, I present to you amazing Joan Báez Medina. She is a Puerto Rican woman, mother, athlete, coach, chemist, and writer. Yes, she wears many hats, and wears them very well.
I’m working together with my cousin Auranyd Alvarado, known on social media as Una Boricua en Louisiana. She recently started her online coffee business Isla Nena Café. We have started a virtual coffee break chat that we call Isla Nena Café Hour. These chats are on Facebook, for now, but we’re working on some ideas to share these conversations with you in some other ways. As part of this adventure, we bring you interviews with friends and family who deserve to be recognized, so we are putting them in the spotlight.
We did a coffee chat with my cousin Alex Alvarado and that’s when I found out about Joan, as she shares Alex’s interest in the sport of powerlifting. Joan also competes, plus she is the current Vice President of the Puerto Rico Powerlifting Federation. She also coaches a group of athletes interested in the sport.
Joan graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the Mayaguez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. She works in a pharmaceutical corporation in Puerto Rico. While she was a student, she competed in weighlifting, then she got interested in powerlifting.
With all of what Joan does, she decided to publish a book! I invited her to have a chat with me. Here is our conversation:
Hola, Joan! Welcome to my blog Full of Coffee. First question: do you like coffee, and how do you like it?
- Yes, I like coffee. This will sound kind of strange, but I like my coffee with cold milk. It’s kind of funny because every time I go to my aunt Amelia’s house and she offers me coffee, I always tell her to not warm the milk. And every time she would tell me: are you sure? You want milk right from the refrigerator? And I always say yes. He he.
I have to try that. I always drink my coffee with warm milk, or creamer. Any story about how you started drinking coffee that you want to share with me?
- Growing up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, I think is kind of normal to start drinking coffee at an early age. So the first time I tasted coffee I was in third grade. But I became a coffee drinker at college. I remember my mother bought me a “greca” when I went to college. For me the best aroma while making coffee is when you are making it on a “greca”. It has a special meaning for me.
Tell me about your childhood. Where did you grow up? Do you have any siblings?
- I grew up in Castañer, Puerto Rico. This is a small town between Adjuntas, Lares, Maricao and Yauco. For me is a very special place. There was a river called Rio Guayo, in front of my house, and I loved spending my summers in that river, making “charcos” (big puddles) and swimming. That river was a very important place in my childhood. I remember during my childhood I spend a lot of time playing outside with my neighbors and my siblings. I have a younger sister, her name is Frances, an older sister called Magda, and an older brother called Fernando. We played baseball, basketball, volleyball, we rode bikes. We were very active as kids.
Now, tell me a bit about your career as a Chemist. How did you become interested in Chemistry? How was your college experience, in terms of getting to know about the topic? Was it what you expected?
- When I was in sixth grade there was a program in schools where you get to do experiments in the science class. I think the program was called Puerto Rico PPI. We were divided in groups and I really enjoyed doing the experiments. So that was when I started thinking that I could be a scientist or a TV reporter. It was in high school when I decided to become a Chemist. So I went to University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. It was hard studying chemistry. There was a lot of math and chemistry of course. But I did enjoy a lot my college years, I was part of the American Chemistry Society Mayagüez Student Chapter, so we got to do fun stuff about chemistry. And yes, chemistry was what I expected.
How was your real life experience? Have you gotten to use what you learned?
- When I started working in the pharmaceutical industry it was kind of different from what you learned in college. But during all these years I had the opportunity to learn a lot about different equipments and different analysis techniques. You get to know the cycle of the medicines and earn the responsibility of making it, or working with it.
How did you become interested in powerlifting? I know you mentioned on our Facebook live chat that your dad Fernando Báez was a weightlifter athlete who represented Puerto Rico in many international competitions. How did he inspire you?
- My father was a weightlifter, he won the first gold medal in Pan-American games for Puerto Rico. I grew up having Muscle and Fitness magazines in my home. Those magazines help me do a lot of homeworks! He he he. So when I was in high school my father told me that I had the potential to be a weightlifter and earn an scholarship for college. So I started training for that and I became and athlete student. I did weightlifting for the 5 years I went to college. When I was in my last year in college, my father told me that I could became a powerlifter, and I could’ve the opportunity to represent Puerto Rico. So I started to practice powerlifting, and in my first year of participating I had the wonderful opportunity to go to an international championship that was held in Aruba.
Wow, that must have been exciting! Tell me about all the countries you have visited, and, what’s the category you compete in? Any records you hold?
- The powerlifting sport has given me the opportunity to visit a lot of places. I had visited: Aruba, Miami, St Thomas, Czech Republic, Grand Cayman Islands, Norway, St Croix, Orlando, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama.
- I have the national records on Raw Powerlifting in Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and Total in the 84 plus category. I also have the Raw Bench Press single lift record with 107.5 kilos (236.5 lbs).
You also are Vice President of the Puerto Rico Powerlifting Federation, and you run a gym, “Castaner Weights Monsters”, as a coach. Tell me a bit about both experiences.
- It’s been a great experience to be the Vice President of the Puerto Rico Powerlifting Federation. As a coach of the Castañer Weights Monsters I have the opportunity to impact young people and show them the sport of powerlifting. Some of them got the opportunity to represent Puerto Rico in international events, so I feel proud and happy with that.
Next you go from chemist, powerlifter, to author. You wrote and published your first book of poems Te cuento de despechos y pasiones (I tell you about resentments and passions). How did you get interested in writing, and why did you decide to publish it?
- Since I was in high school I loved to write essays, poems and reflections. But for me writing poems is something I’ve always loved. It’s where I feel I can fully express myself. During the quarantine we could not go to the gym, so I felt I needed to do something productive with my free time. I decided to recollect some of my old poems and write new ones and publish it. So I end up with 10 poems about “despechos” (resentments) and 10 poems about “pasiones” (passions).
How has the experience of having a book published been for you?
- Having a book published has been a great experience. The first time I touched my copy, it was so exciting! So I always thank the people who push me to publish the paperback cover version.
I know the Covid pandemic has put on hold many projects and travel plans. Any future projects you want to talk about (powerlifting or your book)?
- Yes, the Covid Pandemic has put on hold a lot of things. In powerlifting, we are planning to do a meet soon, we are working on the Covid restrictions and precautions protocols. I know there is a lot of people that want to compete again. So hopefully soon we will do it. I hope to compete soon national and international. I really hope some day to compete in a World Bench press Championship.
- Now, concerning books, I am writing a new book titled “Las letras de mis pasiones” (The Letters Of My Passions). It’s about Jenna and three loves that she will have in her life, the names of the guys start with A, B and C. But the biggest question is: who will she end up with?
Oh, I love that book idea! And I hope competitions get back to normal soon, with all the precautions that need to be taken care of. Thank you for sharing your story with us!
- Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions for your blog. I really enjoyed it!
And I hope everyone enjoys this interview as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It’s a great opportunity for me to be able to introduce you to all these amazing people. Especially when I get to share stories of amazing women like Joan.
Here is the link to Amazon,where you can find her book Amazon.com Te cuento de despechos y pasiones, Joan Báez Medina. And you can follow Joan on Instagram @ferralli.
I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep bring you more great people for you to know. I have some more pending projects to work on. Thank you for reading! Time for my tacita de café. Salud!