Guest Editor: Christina Joell
Copyright 2017 Art of Living, PrimaMedia Inc
Imagine you’re walking around a city. There’s people to your left and to your right. Right in front of your eyes, there’s a group of people that form into a small circle with their heads facing each other. They’re all wearing the same color and they have these black sashes around their waists. You start to realize a lot of people around you are wearing that same color and before you know it, they start climbing on each other to form some sort of tower. You might think you just accidentally stumbled onto a movie set, or some television show, but it’s likely that you’re in Catalonia, Spain.
What was just described is called a Castell. This is a cultural phenomenon native to Catalonia. Basically (and quite literally), it’s a human tower somewhat similar to a pyramid. Everyone in the castell is standing upright and people continue to climb up on each other’s shoulders until there is a only room for one person to be the ‘point.’ The amazing thing about is it that there’s no ropes, no harnesses – nothing to keep them together other than the fact that they hold on to each other for dear life. The most interesting part about the Castell is that as the levels get higher, the people get younger. Children as young as five years old climb to the top. It’s a little frightening thinking about a child climbing to the top of a stack of people about 30ft tall with no safety net, but like a flash mob, these things take a lot of practice and accidents are actually very rare.
Castellers (people who make castells) typically wear white trousers, a black sash (called faixa), and shirt that’s color represents a team. The Faixa is the most important part of their outfit because it supports the lower back of the wearer. The castellers who are climbing use the faixa’s of others as a foothold or handhold.
The idea originated in Valls, a city near Tarragona (all in Catalonia) in the 18th century where rival groups would compete in constructing different kinds of human towers and the tradition stuck. Now, Castells can be seen in different celebrations. During the summer months, they occur quite frequently in front of Cathedrals (usually monthly).
They even have classes to learn how these take place if you’re feeling particularly strong! This takes the phrase “carry the weight of the world on your shoulder”to a whole new meaning.
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