Why madrileños are called “gatos” (cats)?

In the 11th century Madrid was under Arabic domain. The Christian troops of King Alfonso VI approached at down one of the gates of the walls, in order to surprise the enemy. One of the soldiers managed to climb the outer walls by inserting his dagger between gaps in the tones as foot-holds and then he ran to the fortified tower and changes the Moorish flag for the Christian one. He did so with the agility of a cat and the rest of the soldiers begin to call him “Gato” (cat). In memory of this feat he and his successors assumed the name of “Gato”.

The story became legend and since then all madrileños are also called “Gatos

Nowadays there is a alley called “Callejón del Gato”, named after Juan Álvarez Gato, one of the soldier descendants and a court poet of the 15th century.

Rests of the Moorish wall of the 9th century, 


  • Ilustrated Atlas of the history of Madrid – Pedro López Carcelen
  • Madrid Frommer’s Guide – Peter Stone
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