Journalist Kade Krichko finds love and loss (not the kinds you’re imagining, though) on a serendipitous Sunday in Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood.

Los gatos. A term of endearment used among the citizens of Madrid. 

It’s a moniker that dates all the way back to the 11th century, when a Christian soldier scaled the walls of the then Moor-controlled city and raised a flag of conquest, moving, it’s said, like a cat in the shadows. But ask any Madrileño and they’ll tell you that while that may be true, their nickname has stuck because of the population’s vibrant life after dark. Yet even though nighttime gets much of the acclaim in Madrid, the city’s mornings hold their own kind of magic. 

One particular Sunday morning, I found myself making my way across the Rio de Manzanares in the soft early light. The heat of the day hadn’t arrived yet, and as municipal workers hose weekend debauchery into the gutters, gatos still in last night’s formalwear stumble and scatter toward their beds. And I, wandering, coincidentally bump into the magic of barrio de La Latina’s El Rastro.