Barcelona - Castellers

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April 29th 2012
Published: August 23rd 2012
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Barcellona - Castellers

I didn't really know anything about Castellers before I arrived in Barcelona.

The building of "human castles" seems to be a tradition which is unique to Catalonia. And as traditions go, I don't think it's that old. People have been making themselves into these towers for just over a hundred years. {Although more recently I learned of a similar tradition in India which is more than 4000 years old!}

My first experience of the Castellers was during the La Mercé Festival soon after I arrived when there was a competition between three teams in the Placa De Sant Jaume. The three teams paraded through the streets of the old town as they made their way to the square. I made my way to the square just before the start of the competition to find it completely packed with people who'd come to watch. I managed to squeeze myself into a spot where I thought I'd have a good view not realizing that the entire Green Team were about to squeeze themselves into the same spot!

As the teams arrive at the square they announce their intentions by forming a miniature tower as they
The Pink TeamThe Pink TeamThe Pink Team

In good spirits as they parade through Barcelona
march into the square. The Red Team are clearly the "home" side and there is plenty of support for them. The idea of the competition clearly is to build the highest tower. I'm not sure exactly how it works. I recently found myself trying to explain it to a couple of tourists at a local competition but not being able to answer basic questions like "how long does the competition last?" and "who's winning?".

I find myself very close to the action because I have squeezed myself into the position where the Green Team intend to build their tower and I'm in danger of being in the middle of the base. The Pink Team are the first to build their tower and they seem quite pleased with their results. The basic physics of the tower seems fairly straightforward. You put your biggest, heaviest people in the base of the tower to support the rest and the smallest, lightest people at the top. "Smallest" and "lightest" means small children. I see many proud mothers carrying their children on their shoulders ready to send them to the top of the tower. The children now wear head protection - but I'm told that this is a fairly recent innovation after a serious accident a couple of years ago.

Although the physics seems fairly straightforward the teams have obviously trained a lot for this. The Green Team probably has more than seventy people in it but once they start building their tower everybody seems to know exactly what to do. There is one person shouting instructions and the tower goes up very quickly.

The Red Team's first attempt, despite the support of the home crowd, doesn't go too well and they abandon it half way through. Clearly the whole process is more complex than I imagined because I couldn't spot anything going wrong. After the first round of towers it seems that the Greens are winning.

On to the next round. The Pinks nearly meet with disaster this time. Their tower collapses and a couple of people seem to fall quite a distance. But the rest of the team seem to know how to react as the base of the tower breaks the fall of the falling people and nobody is injured. In the second and third rounds the teams unveil a new trick - as they dismantle the tower
The Reds Are The Home TeamThe Reds Are The Home TeamThe Reds Are The Home Team

Announcing their intentions as they arrive in Placa De Sant Jaume
they leave a central column of about five people standing. At the end of three rounds the Reds seem to be the happiest and are starting to celebrate - I'm not sure what the criteria is but they seem to be winning.

Time for one effort from the Greens. Every able-bodied man near the Green Team is called into action. Bemused looking tourists suddenly find themselves in the base of the Green tower {for some reason they seem to overlook me!}. But up goes the tower and it seems to be a winner! The Greens are really happy! Once they've safely got everbody down there is plenty of singing and chanting in celebration. I really don't know how it's judged, I didn't see anyone measuring the towers, but I think we won! {I am now a lifelong Green supporter!}.

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Getting ReadyGetting Ready
Getting Ready

Forming the base of the tower
Some Chanting At The EndSome Chanting At The End
Some Chanting At The End

We've clearly won!

24th August 2012

Gosh! Beats the Playa Blanca story!
Wish I'd been there.
16th January 2014

about the rules
no, there isn't a competition! (but there are usually strong rivality)...each group has his own goals, for this reason a group who apparently do the "smaller" castells is at the end the most happiest, because they are reached an inedit until this day (for them) castle!! this implies, of course, that supporters and enthusiast knows more or less the castle who do each group each year or season!!

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