If you are visiting Madrid or you have moved from your country to the capital of Spain, you may have heard that people from Madrid are called “gatos” (cats). Do you know why Madrilenians are called gatos? It has nothing to do with their appearance, they’re not furry and they don’t scratch, we promise you. 😆 Keep reading and find out why!

History of the nickname gato and its use for Madrilenians

According to a legend, the name “gato” or “gata” comes from a historical event that took place in Madrid. It happened in the 11th century, in the Middle Age. During the Arab domination of Spain, by order of Muhammad I in Mayrit (later Madrid), a very high wall was built to defend the city from possible invaders. However, in 1085 one of King Alfonso VI’s soldiers managed to climb it successfully. He achieved to open the gates to the Christian army and change the Moorish flag for a Christian one, reconquering the city.

When he was climbing up the wall, using only a dagger, the other soldiers were impressed that he was climbing so quickly and easily up the wall, and said that he looked like a cat. 🐱 From that moment on, this soldier decided to change his surname to “Cat”.  As time went by, the surname was passed on to his descendants, some of whom were also very important soldiers. Gradually, the nickname “gatos” was extended to people of great courage and, later, to all Madrilenians. Although, in fact, not all people born in Madrid are cats… Find out who the real cats are below. 🙃

By the way, nowadays you can visit some ruins of this wall near the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. In addition, in La Latina you can see a mural with the inscription “I was built on water, my walls are fire“. This refers to the aquifers that existed under Madrid and to the sparks that flew from the arrows when they collided with the wall of Mayrit.

people from Madrid called cats

Requirements for a person from Madrid to be a cat

As we said before, not all people who were born in Madrid are called cats. There is a crucial requirement, which means that many people from Madrid cannot be cats. What is it? That their four grandparents are from Madrid. In other words, their mother's parents and their father's parents have to have been born in this city. As you can imagine, not many people meet this requirement. Madrid is a city full of people from all over the world, and also from different parts of Spain. Over the years, many people from other Spanish regions have come to Madrid to seek work and have settled here. And you, do you plan to stay and live in Madrid? ✨ Maybe your descendants will be called gatos.

-   Christmas lights in Madrid 2020