16 Feb How are Madrilenians like? ¿Are they “chulos”?
The Madrilenians, or gatos (cats), as we are also called, are “victims” of a series of regional topics that draw a personality that is halfway between the fiction and the reality. We are fully aware that clichés have no scientific basis, however they explain well what is the perception other people have about Madrid and Madrilenians.
The reason why they are called gatos has been related sometimes with the nocturnal lifestyle of people in Madrid, but the true reason requires going backwards in time. In 1083, during The Reconquest of Iberian Peninsula by the Christian Kingdoms, the king Alfonso VI leaded the army to conquer the Mayrit fortress, known today as Madrid. To start the battle and conquer the city, an agile young man climbed the wall. Thanks to that, the plan was successful and the man has been considered a hero, being nicknamed “Gato”. This nickname passed through his descendants and was later extended to all citizens.
However, there is a particular term commonly used to define how Madrilenians are and it stands out over any other: chulo (translatable as ‘cocky’). Popularly Madrilenians are considered arrogant and defiant –you will be able to confirm it if you type on Google “los madrileños son”-. There are different reasons for it, and one is the relation of the term with the regional tradition.
One of the meanings of chulo that appear on the Spanish dictionary defines the word as “person belonging to the popular class of Madrid, recognizable by his/her ostentation, the outfit and the attitude”. But it was also the name given to men dressed with the Madrilenian folkloric suit, so therefore, because of the negative connotation of chulo, the word turned later into chulapo.
The folkloric dance is the chotis, and the body expression requires firmness and conviction, always with the chin in high position, like expressing pride, which can be another representative sign.
Madrilenians are also accused of showing off excessively about their city. The way they consider it, above all other places when they travel to another Spanish city, expresses to some people certain disdain for the rest. A phrase that Madrilenians usually say is “Madrid only lacks of beach”.
If we talk about the most correct Spanish accent, we should enter into an endless discussion between the ones that consider they have their own special accent –usually non Madrilenian people- and the ones –usually Madrilenians- that think they speak the standard and “perfect” Spanish.
In the same way, the characteristics that describe the (supposed) Madrilenian cockiness can be found in their slang and expressions that some avoid using. Words like tronco (colloquial way to talk to a friend), mazo (much), chinarse (get angry) and certain phonetic changes are related with the lower class; for this reason some people pretend to speak more “sophisticated”.
At Spaneasy we would like to know your opinion about this topic: do you think Madrilenians are arrogant and defiant? Tell us in our commentary section.