In Lima, the capital of Peru, a romantic 15-year-old boy who liked to write poems watched a classmate play the guitar. He studied the way the boy pressed the strings down to play chords every day during recess. He even memorized all the finger movements.
Rodrigo Martinez was that boy. Now, 23 years later, he is a singer, songwriter, actor, and TV host with more than 26,000 followers on Facebook and 18,000 on Instagram. Even though he achieved some success in Peru, Martinez has long believed there is one more step in his artistic career. That is why he moved to Orlando seven months ago.
The process of getting an artist’s visa, which is very complex, started almost two years ago and is only given to athletes, artists, and entertainers who have a record of extraordinary achievements in the industry.
“I like knowing that this is a country that has great opportunities, that values talent,” he explains.
Martinez rose to popularity after landing in third place in one of Peru’s most popular singing competitions, “Yo Soy.” However, he began pursuing an artistic career long before that.
Martinez started writing poems when he was eight years old. His mother, Cecilia Vidal, recognized his talent and associated it with her father, who was a songwriter.
“My father was a songwriter… he had an innate talent for this,” Vidal said. “And I think Rodrigo inherited that from my father.”
As a teenager, he would cry listening to romantic songs by the Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz on the radio. This later allowed him to write some of his own.
“I lived floating and that inspired me to make music,” he said, remembering his childhood. “I met an intimately romantic Rodrigo who needed to live with hope, who needed to live in love with life, with a girl, with love itself, with how beautiful everything can be.”
Rodrigo’s writing was so special that his mother often received comments about his ability from teachers.
“University professors, his literature professor especially, told me that he wrote very well and that… when he would write poetry, he expressed what he wrote very well,” Vidal recalled.
He participated in his first singing competition, “Camino a la Fama” (The Path to Fame), when he was 18 years old. There he was trained by some of the best-known singers in Peru: Eva Ayllón, Lucía de la Cruz, and Julie Freundt. This experience encouraged him to continue on this path.
“I learned many things from them that are still useful to me today,” he said.
When he turned 24, he met his now-wife Victoria Block while performing in front of a small audience.
Martinez spent the next years taking singing and music classes. Then, without any acting experience, he garnered his first acting role in 2011 in the miniseries “La Bodeguita,” which centers around the owner of a convenience store and his relationship with the customers. Martinez played Brandon, the love interest of the protagonist’s daughter. He also composed part of the soundtrack.
“From watching big stars on screen like Ricky Tosso, César Valer… and all those people from the great soap operas, I was suddenly recording a scene with them, and I said ‘Wow,'” he recalled. “I had not acted before, but I had been a theater guy my whole life.”
Martinez returned to music soon after. He became part of a tribute band that interpreted songs by the multi-national opera group Il Divo. In 2016, they entered the singing and impersonation competition TV show “Yo Soy,” one of the biggest music competitions in Peru, which premiered ten years ago. Their performance of the song “Hasta mi Final” has garnered more than 200,000 views on YouTube. They landed in third place at the grand finale.
“Winning is winning and we didn’t win,” he remembers. “But reaching a position as honorable as third place, it opened the doors of all of Peru to us.”
The group performed on more than 120 stages around Peru and then Martinez took various jobs as a host and reporter for entertainment TV shows. He interviewed many national and international artists, including the Argentinian rock band Soda Stereo and Mexican rock bands El Tri and Molotov.
In March 2019, Martinez’s dream of becoming a father came true after he and his wife, Victoria Block, welcomed their daughter Abril.
Martinez’s rising career in Peru hit an unfortunate obstacle when Covid-19 lockdowns affected the country. Entertainment shows were not able to air in Peru for a long time and there are still many restrictions today.
“When the pandemic began in Peru, everything I used to do and all the source of income I had was practically cut off at the root and with scissors: the shows, the performances, and everything else,” he said.
Martinez decided to continue his artistic career in the United States. Even before the pandemic started, he and his wife, Victoria Block, contemplated the idea of moving to the United States.
“Living here was part of a plan we had for a long time,” said Block. “He and I communicate all the time and we usually try to build everything we do around both of us, to the things we like, to what we want to do, and to our goals and dreams.”
But choosing a country to move to was the easiest part of the family’s immigration journey. Martinez decided to apply for an artist visa to work and live in the United States.
“For more than a year, I had to dedicate myself to making a huge file with everything I had done since I started as an artist more than 15 years ago,” he mentioned.
His hard work paid off and his visa application was approved, along with dependent visas for his wife and three-year-old daughter. They moved to Orlando in July of 2021.
“Being here has been an accomplished goal, a ‘check’ on our wish list,” Block said. “We are very happy to be able to live here since we are always looking for the best for our daughter Abril.”
With his family’s support, Martinez is not giving up. These months he has been preparing new material, knocking on doors, and networking all over again.
“Whether I like it or not, I’m an immigrant. I’m someone who has just settled here, who is just meeting people,” he said. “I have to generate a new network that allows me to open up and I know it will happen.”
Martinez is happy with his achievements and remembers the applause he received on Peruvian stages.
“There are artists who reach international success and they are at the Grammys, they are on the Billboards, these artists received a lot of investment,” he said. “I didn’t have any of that but I feel accomplished, happy, and calm because every stage I have stepped on, every TV station I have appeared on, every camera I have smiled at, it has always smiled back at me.”
He has yet to achieve the success he did in Peru, but he is intensely preparing new material, composing new songs, and contacting people in the music and entertainment industries. He still has not lost hope, and the applause he used to receive motivates him to continue.
“That makes me feel that I am definitely an artist,” he said. “That makes me want to continue with all of this because the dream does not end here.”