A city square in Barcelona buzzes with excitement. A trembling tower of daredevils rises, tier by tier… Behold the castell (castle), the amazing Human Tower, a feat of extreme endurance, agility, teamwork & timing.
A huddle of heavyset men sweats & shakes to form the pinya (base), to sustain & manage the weight of their co-castellers. (Remember these towers can rise up to a height of 6 to 10 tiers!) Above them, slightly smaller men & women swiftly climb up, using fellow castellers’ waistbands for leverage, to form the upper tiers or the trunk. Finally, the agile & light-footed children slither up to create the castle’s crown. Various formations are possible, depending on the number & distribution of people but an unchanging feature is the enxaneta, the little child who scrambles to the summit & raise a salute to declare that the castell is complete!
Building the castell is only half the job; it has to also be brought down safely. It is deconstructed carefully, layer by layer, starting at the top; this is often the most difficult & dangerous part of the process. For an onlooker, the event can be awe-inspiring as well as scary… but the fearless castellers are tremendously proud of it, for castell building is central to Catalan culture. The tradition originated in Valls, near Tarragona, and since the 1980s, it has become increasingly popular, with colles (clubs) established throughout Catalonia and even in the Balearic Islands. These clubs welcome members from diverse backgrounds, from labourers to businessmen, from students to pensioners, thus strengthening the social fabric. In 2010, castells were listed by UNESCO among Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Traditionally, tower-building was part of larger festivals but nowadays there are many performances throughout the castell season (June-November). The most important date in the castell calendar is the biennial Concurs de Castells.
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