Néstor Pinsón

Tangos to pay homage to a hero

ow it belongs to a far distant past. How should we place ourselves in the morning on June 11, 1925? Let’s try to imagine the scene, in a neighborhood in the city of Montevideo where a boy was carefree driving his bicycle. He was along Paraguay Street near 18 de Julio, then he drove along Río Negro and, at a place between Mercedes and Uruguay, a dense cloud of smoke and a group of people who, at a safe distance, were asking for help, attracted his attention. The fire was in the warehouse for storing films owned by the Fox Film company.

A voice which called for Asunción was heard. She was a girl who nobody had yet seen getting out of the fire. The first flames were appearing when he left his bike and, only with a handkerchief in his hands, he crossed the entrance door following a woman’s voice.

His name was Atilio Pelossi, an electrician worker, born in San José on October 12, 1899. The firemen had already left their headquarters located across the square still called, because of habit, Plaza Artola. Long ago it had changed its name for 33 Orientales.

Five years before, the brave electrician had already risked his life, also because of a woman who was asking for help, then in the river waters. Atilio succeeded with his assistance and the event remained as a simple story. But this time it was not possible. When the fire was put out he was found holding a young girl a few meters from the exit, they were both dead. She was one of the workers of the company, Asunción Muñoz was her name.

«A tragedy!», was the most common phrase said in Montevideo and throughout Uruguay. The nation was touched and Buenos Aires too, because the news quickly crossed the river.

As soon as time went by, the figure of the hero grew more and more. Several tango guys from our riverbank decided to pay homage to him. So it was that, before the end of the year, two pieces were already published.

1) “Pelossi” (by José Pécora and Juan Carlos Barthe) recording by Ignacio Corsini with guitars, for the Nacional Odeon label the instrumental version by the Francisco Lomuto orchestra, for the Nacional Odeon label. And in 1982 it was committed to record as a piano solo by César Zagnoli.

2) “Atilio Pelossi” (by the pianist Doroteo Andrada) instrumental by Julio De Caro, for the Victor label.

Finally, the República Oriental del Uruguay appointed Atilio Pelossi, as First Civil Hero of Montevideo. Furthermore, an area of the Boy Scouts’ campus bears his name and an avenue in the neighborhood of Del Prado, in Montevideo, too.