That Darn Gato

A beginner’s guide to award-winning gringo cats

With Cinco de Mayo rapidly approaching, elderly individuals across the nation are feverishly gearing their favorite kitties up for the big fiesta. However, every year these senseless, crackpot old-timers tend to go a little overboard with their kitty garnishings, each one trying to outdo the other to win the coveted “Bueno Gringo Cat” trophy, given each year to the cat who best depicts the appearance and racial prejudices associated with your stereotypical Mexican hombre, or as the kitties like to call them, Canadians. (I didn’t say it was a good name, but let me tell you, these cats don’t listen to reason).

The contest is a time-honored tradition in Northeastern Ohio, perhaps stemming from the legend of Senor Jose Bientato, the Spanish dictator/calico cat who ruled with an iron fist (fist in this case meaning a cute little paw) during the 1949 occupancy of Ohio by Mexico. The rule was short-lived, as Senor Jose’s womanizing and tortilla sin tax were more than Ohioans could swallow. Bientato was seized and publicly neutered by a band of liquored-up steel workers on May 5, 1949, and although his imperial reign was brief, his spirit lives on in this joyous celebration of superficial feline showmanship and chivalry (and a certain degree of idiocy).

The basic technique for accessorizing kitty involves three essential pieces of attire: the sombrero, the mustache, and most importantly, the eye patch. A fourth piece, the swashbucklers cape, has been incorporated in the past but is virtually impossible to pull off without compromising the credibility of said filthy, senile old coot. Perhaps the most common misconception is that creating a praiseworthy gringo kitty is easy, even for the novice artisan. If this is what you think, then you’ve got another thing coming, you sick, sick bastard. It is an art form, and takes years of intense cross training to condition for. If you suck at shuffleboard or struggle at mastering Hungry Hungry Hippo, then you may as well hang it up right now, kiddo, cause you ain’t got what it takes. For those of you serious about learning the ropes of this annual feline fashion fiesta, here are some insiders tips (cheats, if you will) to have your kitty downing shots of tequila and taunting an angry bull with blow darts in no time.

  1. You want that mustache to look as convincing as possible, so face paints, iron-on decals and duct tape are out. If your cat can’t yet grow facial hair of its own, a needle and thread is the next best thing to a real ‘stache. And here’s a suggestion: the end of a cat’s tail looks surprisingly like a mustache, when applied properly!
  2. The sombrero: do’s and don’ts
    Do: Use flashy colors, sequins, Bush/ Quayle and/or any My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student bumper stickers and the like.
    Don’t: Assume the cat will voluntarily wear a sombrero. You’ve got to train Ginger to fear and respect that hat. Learn to scold kitty in Spanish to maximize the scare factor. Again, thread or fishing line will come in handy trying to keep the sombrero in place. Don’t worry, a cat’s head is 98% rayon/polyester blend anyway. Go to town!
    Do: Equip sombrero with a small arsenal of deadly weapons- e.g. harpoon gun, throwing stars, cat whip (sorry kitty, it’s for your own good), and kitty size mortar cannon ensemble. He’ll thank you later.
    Don’t: Be lulled to sleep by harmless looking “ornaments” on a rival cat’s sombrero. Those are grenades! Look out! You @#$%, you almost got us killed!
  3. Eye patch, eye patch, how can I spruce up this blasted eye patch, ye scurvy lad? A rule of thumb: the simpler the better in this category. Keep your eye patch one color (black or brown), and of a well-worn leather material. Barnacles are also a nice touch. Trust me, the judges appreciate nothing more than a nostalgic portrayal when it comes to eye patch evaluation.
    I hope these tips will give you a feel for just what constitutes an award winning gato (Spanish for cat, babosa). And one last word of advice: just try to have fun with it. If there’s one thing Cinco de Mayo is celebrated for, besides commemorating the 1862 victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla, it’s cats dressed up like loathsome Mexican dictators, with eye patches aplenty. Keep this in mind, and self-fulfillment on Cinco de Mayo is sure to follow. And if not, it’s pretty funny to dress cats up to depict society’s ethnic stereotypes, regardless of the situation.