Downtown is an intersection of demographics. A cluster of districts unique to our border town of El Paso. In it, we find the El Segundo Barrio community, the generational business owners close to the International Bridge, city employees, young entrepreneurs, artists, visitors and so many more. Every one of these groups of people are what makes Downtown El Paso (DTEP), real, genuine,…”Authentico.” Joel Valverde, 31, is definitely authentic, and if you’re in downtown long enough, you’re bound to run into him eventually.
I met Joel when he volunteered to participate in our El Centro District promotional video for the Downtown Management District (DMD). Not only was he quick to volunteer himself and his fiancé Tiffany McDaniel, but upon meeting him you could see and feel the palpable enthusiasm.
Meeting him again months later, at the Indigo Hotel for this interview, did nothing to sedate his contagious energy. An energy and attitude you recognize immediately from someone that has come around the bend of a big change in their life. I asked to write about him based on his positivity, his active efforts to participate in downtown related activities, and the fact that he proposed to his fiancé in the most grandiose way in downtown.
“I was born in El Paso but raised in Chihuahua, Mexico and lived in Juarez with my Grandma and most of my [Aunts]. We lived in a school bus. The school bus had everything you would find in a house, kind of like a [make-shift] mobile home,” said Joel.
The appreciation for life here, in El Paso, quickly became apparent as Joel elaborated on his past, “We were really poor at the time. We would leave early in the morning and walk to downtown Juarez to ask for food to bring back to the bus.”
At six years old Joel moved back to the United States where he lived between El Paso, Texas and Denver, Colorado for the next few years into young adulthood.
The hardships and challenges persisted through most of Joel’s 20’s, self admittedly making bad choices. “At one point I decided I needed to turn things around, and then I met the right guys and decided to change my whole life,” said Joel.
Venturing into photography and entrepreneurship Joel told us about the company he is now part of, “Through the UR Association, we do advertising and endorsing for major companies, including our own line of merchandise as well. You can find it all online and it’s all healthy too. I like that because I can help people,” said Joel.
When I realized Joel lived in the North East part of El Paso, I had to wonder why he was always in downtown. The business he is part of as an independent contractor is online, so he has no offices in DTEP.
“I just love El Paso, I love [urban] areas, and since I missed so much beauty over the years due to hardships it’s good to be here. My company gave me the opportunity to explore the buildings and take photographs – it’s a blend of so many things I love.”
On the heels of Valentine’s Day, I’d be remiss to mention his proposal to his now, fiancé, Tiffany McDaniel, 28. Originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico Tiffany now works at the City of El Paso Health Department as a nurse. For their two year anniversary Joel orchestrated the kind of proposal you might see in a romantic comedy.
With permission from the property manager, filming and staging was allowed on a vacant floor of the International building on 119 N. Stanton. “With the help of the property manager, we chose two rooms on the eighth floor with a great view, and decorated with the cake, balloons and everything,” said Joel. In addition, Joel decided to include family in the plan. Besides inviting family living in El Paso, he went a step further, “I contacted her niece that she hadn’t seen in a while, that lives in Alamogordo to join us.”
After weeks of trying not to reveal carefully laid plans, the proposal consisted of a surprise-party-style ruse to get Tiffany in a dress and on the eight floor with the help of family, where the group was waiting with camera man in tow to document the reveal. Joel waited in one of the elaborately decorated rooms to propose.
“The reason I did this was because she deserved it, and we’ve both been through a lot,” he said.
If you think you know someone that works, lives or plays in Downtown El Paso and just stands out in all of the best ways, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe we’ll highlight them!