Katia Matías López

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I never thought the phrase, “De tal palo, tal astilla,” was so true. It’s similar to a saying in English, “Like father, like son.” It was Gato’s story that changed my mind.

I met Gato at a Christmas party at Tia Barbara’s house. Gato was my mom’s cousin but he lived far and I had never seen him before. We all sat as a family at a long wooden table, including Gato. He was at the other end but I could still hear him very well.

“Remember last Christmas when Carlos fell down the stairs?” He asked.

“Yeah,” his cousin, Martin, answered.

“No,” a girl who sat next to him replied.

“OK, I’ll explain,” said Gato with a sly smile. Then Gato told of how Carlos had fallen down the stairs. He used exaggerated gestures and movements causing everyone at the table to laugh, including Carlos who was close by.

He spent the whole night telling funny stories about the people around him and reciting silly jokes that made everybody laugh.  His wife, Jasmine, a tall, tan, skinny young woman sat beside him with their little girl, Amy. The four year old sat on her lap and Maya, ten, sat beside her. They were also enjoying Gato’s jokes.

To me they seemed like a great family, all together, close by enjoying each other’s presence. His life seemed perfect, a nice funny guy with a pretty wife and two beautiful children, a dream most people share including me. It was a night and a scene I would never forget because of how dramatically it soon changed.

I left the party talking about him. “Mom I really liked Gato’s cheerful personality,” I said on the drive home.

“Yes he is really great,” she responded in a flat tone.

“His life seems perfect,” I commented. “How lucky is Jasmine to have him?” I said imagining my future with a nice, funny guy and lovely children.

“Gato seems like he has a happy life, but he has a dark past,” Mom said casually catching my attention.

“What happened?” I asked. Curiosity was filling my body.

“Gato’s dad tried to kill his wife,” she said. “He found out that his wife was cheating on him and tried to kill her by stabbing her. She knew that the only way he was going stop stabbing her was if she played dead. So, she pretended to be dead. When Gato’s dad thought his wife was dead, he hung himself with a rope. That’s when Gato’s mom escaped and lived.”

I was so shocked by the story that I spent nights without sleep. For nights I could only think of Gato’s story and how it affected my perfect vision of my family. So far in my young life, I had lived in a family where everything was predictable. I’d been raised in an environment to believe people get married, have children, raise them and die of old age. People don’t stab their wives or commit suicide. Knowing a close family member had suffered such a tragedy confused and scared me. Things like this happened to people on TV, or other people in the community, people who had flaws, but not to my family.

Eventually I reasoned through the horror that on the bright side, Gato had learned a valuable lesson from the horrible tragedy. That’s what I saw that night, him overcoming the “flaw” of his past by creating the perfect family. Gato was a great guy, he was going to do it right, I thought, but I couldn’t be more wrong.

A few years after I met him, his story unfolded. I was sitting on my bed in my room when my mom walked in with a shocked expression.

“Mom is everything alright?” I asked.

“Something bad happened,” she told me.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Gato killed his wife and the he killed himself,” she said.

“How?” I asked shocked.

“People said that Gato had hired a private detective to watch his wife, Jasmine, while she worked. Rumors say he suspected she was cheating on him. When the detective found out what Gato had suspected was true, Gato decided to do something his family never imagined. He picked his daughters from school and took them to their grandma’s house for a sleep over. Then he returned to his house few hours before his wife got out of work. People think that he quietly waited for his wife to come home. When she arrived, Gato stabbed Jasmine in the kitchen with a kitchen knife. He stabbed her until her torso was unrecognizable, leaving all her guts destroyed. Rumors say he destroyed her because he didn’t want to make the same mistake his father did. He wanted to make sure she was really dead. Then following his father’s footsteps he walked to his room and hung himself from his roof fan.”

I never thought it was possible to live such a great tragedy as a child and then make it your own destiny. I guess the phrase made sense now: “De tal palo, tal astilla.” It’s not easy to imagine what was going through his mind. I like to think of it as paranoia; maybe after what happen to his mom he was just traumatized forever. Or maybe he learned that the way his father solved his problem was the right way. After all, he was just a child when it happened. I can’t be certain. Everyone in my family will always wonder what was really going on. Did he ever think of his little girls who would become orphans? Young, beautiful, smart girls who didn’t deserve it. How much he did he think about it? Or it was something that he just planned in an instant? So many questions and so little information.

What I can say is that no one ever suspected that he was capable of it, maybe because of what had happened before or maybe because he hid it so well under his silly jokes. It made me wonder what can I expect from life. Life isn’t this perfect paradise that my family had always tried to show me. Life is like a Pandora’s box, anything can happen. I could do everything right but it was no guarantee. It made me grow up mentally, and rethink what I wanted from my life no matter how my family judges it.  That’s why I chose to study animal science instead of engineering, as my parents would have preferred. Also, I chose to study at a college far away from home so I can learn to make my own path without needing my family’s approval. I learned a lot from them but I learned a lot from Gato too, that the outside has to match the inside. That’s perfection.




  1. When children learn something by example is really difficult for them to not do it. In my opinion, maybe Gato lived a normal happy life before with his wife, but when a situation of his wife cheating happened he did not knew another way to handle the situation like that and did what he was told. obviously it is not an excuse cause when we are adults and have a family one should overcome those bad experiences for our children to have a better moral education. I suppose that each reader who reads this at first, only think of the man who killed his wife, but another thing to consider is his wife who was cheating and also not thinking of her children. If I were his wife and knew the history his father had and did not wanted to be with him and wanted to cheat, I would have left him first and not cheat to avoid a similar situation. but again, such is life and we have to learn about this thing and be our own as you said in the end.

    • ***taught not told.

  2. This story is really shocking! I don’t know Gato, but from what you said, I couldn’t believed it. I would have never imagined that a person that looked that happy would be capable of something so horrible. I don’t think he ever got a chance to think about the consequences of his actions could bring. I think that he just remembered how his father dealt with the situation and thought that that was the way to resolve his problem. That the rage he had towards his wife blinded him, just like it blinded his father.

  3. Wow, I didn’t expect that outcome at all. At least I’m glad you learnt something from such an horrible story. I come from a family just like yours, where everything seems to be perfect, but as we grow up we begin to see that we all are full of flaws, but what we do with them is what determines who we are. I can clearly see that story changed your life for good, and I admire that. Also, I must add that you did an excellent job integrating the reader to the story, I felt I was there with you the whole time. Tremendous job.

  4. Katia this is a bad story and I feel sorry for the daughters of Gato. I like the way you tell the story and I remained curious all the story. Unfortunately things like this are occurring frequently in Puerto Rico. Really I don’t know why this people act like this. I agree when you say that he act like his father. Maybe he learn this behave from his father. I think that parents have to teach good values in their families so in a future their sons applies them in a way that society improve their behavior. I am glad that you learn something about this story and I wish you the best. Good luck!

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