20 years after the death of Walter Olmos, Rodrigo’s heir: miracle, glory and the night of horror

Walter Olmos had grown up on the streets of Catamarca, among hourly workers, brothels, criminals and prostitutes.

Walter Olmos he had grown up on the streets of Catamarca, among hourly workers, whores, criminals and prostitutes. He was a shoe shiner, an errand boy, a cadet. And he became a thief out of hunger: the dream of robbing a bank did not bypass him, he contented himself with fruit, a packet of noodles, a piece of meat. If he came home empty-handed, he recalled, he was once afraid his mother would get angry and hit him, but that didn’t happen. Sometimes he looked through the trash cans and was happy to find leftover pizza dough or cheese.

Like some characters in Leonard Favio, was a mischievous boy with a mischievous smile, twinkling eyes and a brooding sadness. But Walter Olmos was not killed by the danger of the street or by helplessness. His death comes with fame and glory approaching: on September 8, 2002, in a hotel in San Cristóbal, the singer, sponsored by Rodrigo and praised by “Mona” Jimenez, died of a gunshot wound to the temple.

the night of tragedy

His end, as unexpected as it was confusing, came before the three concerts he was scheduled to perform that night. His musicians say that a Catamarca friend like him had presents a 22 caliber revolver. And that the famous quartetero plays like that kid from the street. “Give me the twine or I’ll burn you,” he told them one by one.

His end, as unexpected as it was confusing, came before the three concerts he was scheduled to perform that evening
His end, as unexpected as it was confusing, came before the three concerts he was scheduled to perform tonight

He said he was going to take a shower. He was first heard to have triggered the gun. But the shot missed. But on the second attempt, the sound of a bullet was heard. Olmos remained lying on the bed. He was 20 years old, with a great future ahead of him. And a difficult past behind him.

Olmos was born in Catamarca on April 21, 1982, in the middle of the Malvina War. Naomi, his mother, gave birth to him when he was 15 years old. He was the first of nine brothers. In an article published by Veintitrés magazine in May 2001, a year before his death, he wisely defined hunger. Not only had he experienced it, but he knew how to describe it: “It’s very cold, nobody’s giving you a hand while you’re lying there on the street. You don’t want to go home, you’re afraid the old woman will hit you because you don’t have a handle. You know the police are coming to take you away at any moment. You want to do something and no one lends a hand so that your family can eat. It’s hunger.”

His years of poverty inspired the song “Chico de la calle”:

At the corner of the traffic light

His gentle eyes looked at me

And a memory reminded me

Those who walk barefoot

Despite the mornings

full of cold and despair

for the lack of shoes

And nothing but an illusion

At the age of 13, he was admitted to a juvenile institution for bad behavior. He came out at 16. His dream was to sing. Be famous. He was given to the Virgen del Valle, to whom he had made a promise: “If you make me sing, I will give you ten pesos.”

Olmos' first album, 'De Pura Sangre', reached platinum status with more than 100,000 copies sold (courtesy of Tea y Deportea Archive)
Olmos’ first album, ‘De Pura Sangre’, reached platinum status with more than 100,000 copies sold (courtesy of Tea y Deportea Archive)

Ten pesos for the Virgin

This is how he told it in an interview with Página/12: “At first I could not keep the promise with the Virgin. He had started singing in a small group. The guy who put it together had a butcher and greengrocer and what I wanted was to give me something to eat so I could take something home. Time passed, but the man gave me nothing, absolutely nothing, not even to make manja. And I could not pay the Mother of God what was promised. Things stayed that way for a while and eventually I was able to join the group Los Bingos, which is a band from Catamarca that has been playing as a quartet for thirty years. I managed to have the chance to sing with them and there I already paid the famous ten pesos to the Virgin”.

And from there, after a few presentations, the miracle happened. An Olmos song played in a bowling alley in Catamarca. In this place was Rodrigo. When he heard it, he was fascinated and asked, “Who is this boy who has a voice similar to La Mona?”

And the next day she met him. Olmos became Rodrigo’s chosen successor. He was his driver, his secretary and apprentice. Together they composed the hit “Por lo que yo te Quiero”, which appeared on a Cordovan concert album. Those were the times when the quartet was fashionable all over the country.

Olmos’ first album, “De Pura Sangre”, reached platinum status with more than 100,000 copies sold.

Rodrigo’s tragic death caused great pain to Olmos. “I’m sorry I didn’t drive that night to avoid his death,” he said.

Walter sold out stadiums across the country and he established himself with a series of sold-out concerts at the legendary Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires in mid-2001.

Rodrigo's tragic death caused great pain to Olmos.
Rodrigo’s tragic death caused great pain to Olmos. “I’m sorry I didn’t drive that night to avoid his death,” he even said (courtesy of the Tea y Deportea archive)

But despite his youth, the travels, the tours, the performances, the interviews had worn him out.

“I’m very tired. I’m a healthy boy, I don’t accept to suffer anything. I’m weak, I’m sleepy, I’m hungry, I miss my family,” he said in a note.

In April 2002, while on tour, the car he was traveling in overturned and crashed into a house in Catamarca. He has a head injury. He spent several days in intensive care.

Recovered, he returned to Buenos Aires. He had 200 thousand records sold. Until the fateful night in room 22 of the San Cristóbal Inn, on Estados Unidos Street, in Buenos Aires. “When I get back from the shows in the morning, I swear I’ll make you breakfast,” he promised his girlfriend Vanessa.

But at night a dark game began.

“I walked into the room and he put the gun in my face. I heard a click and told him to stop screwing around because he might shoot someone. He wanted to calm me down, he dropped a bullet and told me nothing was wrong,” said sound engineer Luis Lopez.

But there were still 12 shells left in Bersa.

He was fired by thousands of followers in a burning chapel, which was placed in the bailanta Mundo Bailable, by Ingeniero Budge (courtesy of Tea and the Deportea archive)
He was fired by thousands of followers in a burning chapel, which was placed in the bailanta Mundo Bailable, by Ingeniero Budge (courtesy of Tea and the Deportea archive)

Olmos threw himself on the bed with the gun. He waited to be handed the phone to call his sister. Then it was shot. The bullet entered the artist’s right temple and lodged in his brain, causing his instant death. For experts, more than suicide, Olmos was playing Russian roulette. And he lost.

Thousands of followers dismissed him in a burning chapel that was created in the bailanta Mundo Bailable by Ingeniero Budge, and then in his native Catamarca, where a crowd approached the coffin that traveled 8 kilometers from the house to the cemetery.

Olmos, the wayward childthe young man, who performed the miracle he asked of the virgin, returned to the city from where he set out in search of a dream that ended in a nightmare.

CONTINUE READING:

Walter Olmos: a poor childhood and an end with many doubts
The last couple of Walter Olmos talks

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