“WHO IS GATO CÁRDENAS?”
“Mami, Dadi, I’m dead! I’m dead!” yells Jesus “Gato” Cárdenas, running across the street to George and Alexia Demas. Then Gato shows them the letter from Social Security: “We are sorry to learn that JESUS CARDENAS … died July 30, 2002.”
Such begins the entanglement of George and Alexia Demas and Jesus Cárdenas, sometimes-homeless, always living by his wits, Cuban immigrant. George finds out why Gato was pronounced dead and gets his check reinstated.
The old saying plays out. If you save a life, you become responsible for it. The Demases let him stay in their home until he receives his back pay; George becomes Gato’s payee, receiving his monthly check, paying his rent, trying to get his ID.
Gato claims to be a Vietnam veteran and US citizen, yet both assertions prove difficult to verify. Why is it so hard to even confirm Gato’s birthday? Is he a refugee of the Castro regime, or one of Castro’s undesirables released to the US during an early 80s boatlift?
Perhaps the tapes Gato records, some surreptitiously, to tell his story as his “Dadi” asked him to, will provide the answers, as Citizen Cárdenas unfolds in the voices of several characters.