By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
With a big house near Katy, a number one radio show and the quickest and bluest quips in any cantina, Carlos Martinez will never be mistaken for anyone's victim. Nevertheless, the most crucial skill in his arsenal is his knack with people who really may be victims, his ability to tease vulnerable women brashly, yet not degrade them.
The secret, as one listener has pointed out, seems to be in Martinez's rhythm, the way he yowls with laughter and crude jokes at the start of a call, then effortlessly carves out a few seconds of sanctuary in which normally unlistened-to women can reveal their fears, and even laugh back. Once that happens, it seems, they don't forget it. Twenty-six-year-old Esperanza is one of these women. An immigrant from Michoacan who works nights cleaning office buildings, Esperanza says she was once shocked by Martinez, but now idolizes him.
When she was 20 and new to Houston, Esperanza explains, she wanted to have a baby but couldn't conceive. One doctor told her she was infertile, but needed $500 to confirm the diagnosis; another said there was nothing wrong with her. Her main alternative source of advice was her mother-in-law, who called her a failure for being childless.
"Then one day, a woman called Carlos with my same problem," Esperanza says. "He said that after having relations with her husband, he should lift her feet in the air and hold up her legs.
"Well, before, I didn't like Carlos. I thought he was barbaric. Very vulgar. After I heard his advice, though, I tried it myself. I got pregnant six days later! What he said sounded ridiculous, but it was very effective. Now he seems to me a good, good, good man."
There's another reason why Esperanza likes Martinez. It takes a little while for her to work up the courage to say it; these things are much easier to discuss when given the anonymity of a radio show. Face to face, talking is tricky. But Esperanza finally notes that she thinks Martinez has, well, helped her husband, too.
"From where I come from, my village, you just grab your woman and mount her and that's it," Esperanza says. "My husband was like that, too. He never would even kiss me when we had relations."
About three years ago, though, Esperanza noticed a change. Her husband suddenly took more time with her, acted more tender during sex. Though he never said anything, Esperanza thought she knew the reason.
"I knew he'd started listening to Carlos," she says. "One day I heard [Martinez] on the radio, and I said to my husband, 'You like him, don't you?' He said, 'I listen to him once in a while.' We don't talk about it. I know my husband listens to the show by himself, and I listen by myself. But for me, it's almost like Carlos dropped down from heaven.