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Castellers: Touching the sky with the hand 2

So what exactly are the castells and the castellers?

Well, the “castells” are human towers that members of various teams (so called colles castelleres) form, during Catalan festivals.

The colles castelleres consist of well trained people of all ages and both sexes. The participation of women and small children facilitates the construction of very high castles, consisting of even 9 and 10 rows.

In order for a tower to be is considered as successfully formed, it not only needs to be assembled, but also disassembled. The castle’s weight is being sustained by the bottom base, formed mostly by men, the “pinya”. The base also acts as a “safety net” for the people from the upper levels, if the tower structure collapses.

The hoarse trumpet I was listening to, while the castell was being formed, is called “gralla”. It is a traditional Catalan wind instrument, similar to the Valencian dolçaina.

Gralla, photo by Josep Bonamusa

The gralla is used during the construction and dismantling of the castells to play a concrete melody called the “Toc de castells”, which serves to coordinate the castellers while building the tower, informing them at what stage the construction has reached, each moment, because they are unable to see it.

As the moto of the Castellers suggests, the “rising” and dissembling of the castell takes a great deal of strength, balance, courage and common sense (“Força, equilibri, valor i seny”)

Therefore, the castellers are trained to gain strength, fitness, composure and balance, but not only. They are taught many important things about the values of life and co-existence. They learn to work as a team, to help and to care for one another. They learn to use their common sense, in order to understand that performing requires a great deal of planning and reasoning.

But they also learn that falling is not the end of the world and that the most important thing is to find the strength to rise and stand up again, each time they fall.

The Catalans love castells. Almost every town, as well as many Barcelonian districts, have their own team.

Tarragona Castells Competition 2008, photo by Pere López

Moreover, a famous castle competition is held every two years at the city of Tarragona, at the Tarraco Arena, where the various teams of Castellers gather to see who can build the highest and most complex human castle.

Here is a characteristic video of the competition, were we can admire some successful attempts, as well as some unsuccessful, all welcomed and applauded.

On November 16, 2010, Castells were declared by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


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