Castellers – one of the famous Catalán traditions

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There are so many Catalán traditions. You should really try to learn a little about them. In my opinion the most breathtaking ones are the Castellers!

This tradition originates from near Tarragona but after many years it has become popular all around Spain. However the most talented experts are naturally still from Catalunya. Recently, the Castellers were registered on the Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List by the local government.

castellers

Castellers are actually making Human Towers (the word “castell” means castle in Catalán) which can reach a maximum of ten storeys high (“deu” or 10 in Catalán)! Every level can consist of 1 to 5 persons. There are lots of teams of Castellers in Barcelona as well, so you might easily see some Human Towers around the city.
Building Human Towers originated as a competition to see which team could build the highest tower. Nowadays, this has become quite a sport, there are 100s of teams all over Catalunya and many events where you can see Castellers, from Barcelona or further afield in Catalunya . In Tarragona there is an unofficial Human Tower Championship every two years where the rival groups of Castellers can battle with each other.
You can also easily differentiate the teams from each other. Traditionally the Castellers wear white trousers with a bandana and a huge black belt called a “faixa” in Catalán. This is one of the most important pieces of their clothing because the Castellers usually hold onto it with their feet or cling on to it while climbing higher to the top. It is their shirt which can tell you which team is which as they have their own colour of shirt and emblem off course .

mini castellersThe teams of Castellers are just like a big family – not surprising since they must trust and respect each other, it is truly a team sport where you really need to count on the others below you.
Naturally, every member has their own role to play. There are a lot of people at the bottom to build a strong base for the tower. They are usually older men and their formation is called “pinya”. As the tower gets higher and higher the climbers age gets younger and younger. Can you imagine being the kid on the very top (“enxaneta”) – they can be as young as 4 years old! They are so brave climbing to the top of this Human Tower in their little helmet, finally raising four fingers symbolising the four stripes of the Catalán flag. It is always surprising how high these Human Towers can get, appearing right next to you in front of your eyes.
Everyone holds their breath while the Human Tower is being built watching the Castellers climbing on each other very skillfully and calmly, concentrating on the challenge. It is also important to dismantle the tower succesfully, only then can it be called “descarregat” which is the best title.
There are many events at which Castellers perform but in Barcelona it is normally at La Mercé Festival, the very famous Catalán festival where you can see a lot of Castellers at Plaça de Sant Jaume.

But don’t worry you could check out the practices of the team Castellers de Barcelona on Saturday (23rd of October) (more info here), so if you don’t want to miss them it is a good chance to watch how these incredible Human Towers are built!

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Submitted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 at 4:22 pm