“Gato” is synonymous with “Madrileño,” or simply put, a person from Madrid. This isn’t that common of a fact: several Spanish friends of mine admitted after having seen my blog title that they had no idea the Madrileños were also known as gatos. Although I am not a gato by blood, neither is anyone. The term is followed by an expression: “Gato no naces, gato te haces.” The literal translation reads: a cat you aren’t born, a cat you become. Nowadays, there aren’t many people who are actually from Madrid. Many people come to live in Madrid from all over Spain and the world, like me. For me, I identify with being a gato because if I were really from Madrid, I’d be an actual Madrileño, but I’m not. I’m adopted.
Being such an avid Madridophile, I thinks it’s safe to say that I am quite gato. I learned Spanish in Madrid and it shows in my vocabulary, slang, and accent. I have dreamed and loved and lived Madrid. I’ve never had more morriña (homesickness/nostalgia) for a place when I’m not there, and when I am present, I feel alive.
There are lots of rumors out there as to where the name ‘gato’ comes from. The most common answer I’ve seen was back in 1085 under the lead of Alfonso VI, he and his soldiers tried to scale the giant wall that originally surrounded Magerit or Mayrit (Madrid). One young soldier, very agile and quick, ran towards the wall and suddenly pounced and scaled the entire thing. Someone must have yelled, “he looks like a cat!” as he scrambled up the wall. Somehow, the name stuck. Read more here.
Currently, I am living away from my beloved. Here it’s neither “Madrid,” or how I like to say it, “Madriz,” but rather, “Madrit.” I live in Barcelona, but I still relate more with Madriz and Spain than I do BCN and Catalonia. Coming here to BCN at first was a bit of a battle, but now I’ve come to really enjoy my life here as well (who could argue with the beach?!). I am here for the moment, and I’m thrilled to have had so many different Spanish experiences, but as far as this blog goes, I write as an expat American gato who has come to live in Barcelona.