By Reynaldo Mena
At the age of six, Alberto ‘El Terrible’ Cortez dreamed of becoming an aviation pilot. He imagined himself flying an airplane, wearing his uniform, and playing with toy planes in his home in Mexico City.
“I used to go out to see the Concorde, that supersonic plane that traveled from Paris to Mexico. I also liked to see other types of planes, but the Concorde made me dream,” says el terrible Cortez, host of the program ‘Al Aire con El Terrible’ on the 97.9FM La Raza station.
He didn’t become a pilot, but he became one of the most important radio hosts in the country.
“It’s a very difficult job, a lot of work. You have to refresh your content, know your audience, reinvent yourself every day,” says the host. “Radio is a very treacherous job. If your ratings drop, you can be fired overnight, so you always have to be alert, trying to build the best show for each day.”
el terrible Cortez was born in San Francisco, California, but at the age of five, they returned to Mexico. His father didn’t want him to get involved in that world of gangs and violence. They settled in Mexico City for a short time, then moved to Morelia, where he spent his adolescence.
“Mexico City went almost unnoticed, I felt the real change in Morelia. I attended primary school, made friends, and spent my childhood there,” he adds.
His father wanted him to be an entrepreneur, as he was in part. ‘El Terrible’ didn’t imagine a life as a radio host, but he enjoyed the music of José José, El Puma, and others. He also listened to the programs of Kalimán and La Tremenda Corte.
“What I did enjoy was singing. I did it wherever they asked me to. I remember a song I heard and sang a lot, ‘A la orilla de un palmar’ (At the edge of a palm grove). I was also part of the school choir,” he adds.
When he turned 18, he decided to return to San Francisco.
“I told my father, ‘We can go back.’ I wanted to work, buy clothes, have a car. I had to climb the economic ladder,” he says.
He had his passport, nothing was stopping him, so he returned to his father’s side.
He worked at everything, in industrial laundries, as a garbage collector, installing cables.
“I regretted nothing. I had decided to come to this country and had to move forward. My first salary was $5.50 per hour, nothing, but I could get a hamburger with that,” he adds.
Being over 18 years old, the temptation to join a gang was inevitable. What his father had feared so much had come.
“I got involved in gangs, I felt like I belonged, until things got ugly. Knives and guns came out, and then I decided that wasn’t the life I wanted for myself,” he says.
He started working in a night club, a career in radio hadn’t arrived yet, but in that place, they gave him the opportunity to introduce the artists. Also, while working during the day, he listened to Renán Almendárez Coello, known as El Cucuy de la Mañana, and El Chulo de la mañana.
“They were my references, so I became interested. I started researching, and a relative asked me if I was interested in being a radio host. I said yes, and they arranged an interview for me at Radio Tricolor. They gave me a program from midnight to 5 in the morning, and well, it was my first experience on the radio. With that schedule, no one listened to me. None of my mistakes, the overlapping songs, the bad sound reached anyone, but for me, they were my first lessons,” he adds.
Later, he moved on to produce a nationally broadcast program, the morning show on 101.9 FM, which later went to Los Angeles at 101.9.
They replaced El Cucuy, which was a challenge. He stayed there for a while and then left, and later, Eddie León sought him out and found an opportunity for him in Chicago.
“After leaving the morning show on 101.9 FM, I produced a program on the internet, as if I were on the radio. That was my demo. While Eddie was helping me, I went to spend a few days in Morelia. He called me there and told me he needed me in Chicago. So I flew straight there, without stopping in Los Angeles,” he says.
The program was broadcast on La Ley 107.9, and that’s where the El Terrible show was born. Later, the program was absorbed by 97.9 FM La Raza, where he has been for six years now.
For him, it is important to gauge people’s pulse. Perhaps one day they want jokes, another day interviews, help with their paperwork, but he is sure that they are not interested in highly produced things.
“I want to transmit hope to my audience. Everyone has a difficult life, but it is possible to overcome it,” he says. “If I can make them smile with my show, then I’ve won. Life is about continuing to resist.”
There are times when hard work tires him, frustrates him to the point of saying, “I can’t go on anymore.”
“Every time your ratings drop, it’s a hard blow, so you have to fight to regain your space. Thank God I have the support of my wife; she encourages and helps me in everything. I still have many goals, that’s what keeps me standing,” he concludes.