Every two years one of the most extraordinary competitions in the world is held here in Tarragona: the Concurs de Castells, the Human Tower competition.
This Sunday the 12 highest ranking groups of Castellers took centre stage in the arena and for seven unforgettable hours we were treated to an astonishing feat of balance, strength and human collaboration in a nail biting competition which saw three groups of castellers achieving a ten levels tower for the first time in history.
Emotions run high on both sides, for both participants and spectators, there are deep rivalries, tensions, exhilaration, towers rise and collapse and castellers get hurt. So much preparation and training is devoted to this throughout the year yet the extraordinary thing is that these are no athletes but ordinary people glued together by share passion.
Castells are complex structure which culminate with the “enxaneta” the little boy or girl which climbs to the top.
My favourite bit is the core base of the “pinya” which is only visible until the tower rises. The core is the foundation, with feet digging deep in to the ground almost setting roots. Interlocked and with the unbearable pressure sinking in from above and sideways the core of the pinya is a dark and terrifying place especially when supporting a large tower. Yet is is shielded when a tower collapses which makes it also the safest place in the complex structure. This is is just one aspect which make watching Castells so compelling.
Castles are quintessential Catalan and because of this they are deeply intertwined with the historical reality of the times. Today the arena was filled with banners demanding democracy, che chance to cast a vote in a referendum so far rejected by the impasse of the Spanish government, the crowds occasionally breaking out in a roar for independence, independencia, when sighting president Artur Mas in the audience.
But even this could not distract from one of the breathtaking spectacle of the Concurs of Castells and for the next seven hours the historical reality of Catalonia was almost cast aside as each colla in turn rose and each enxaneta stretching a little hand in to the air above.
For more information about Castells see: http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-castellers-human-towers.html