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Human Towers at Sant Roc

One of the great privileges of living in Tarragona, is to watch the Collas build castells “human towers”, this spectacular feat of balance, strength and human engineering which is unique to Catalonia.  From atop a balcony it looks like the inverse making of a flower, it’s petals embedded in the ground and the stem raising up in to the sky.

Yesterday, following the parade of Sant Roc, in which giant statues were carried around the barrio preceded by a fire spitting dragon, the Colla Jove dels Xiquets de Tarragona i els Xiquest de Reus proceded in their assembly of three different types of towers each. Watched form above one can really appreciate the meticulous preparation, calibration and positioning of each of the people forming the pinya, the base layer of the castell.  This is the ground layer which will bear all the weight and cushion the castellers from the impact of a fall should the tower collapse. Like a jigsaw puzzle people the castellers are “inserted” in between each other and  below until the base is as solid as a rock.

Then, at the traditional sound of the Toc de Castells,  the next levels follows and so forth as fast as possible and at each level lighter build people climb on top of each other. When the last layer is in place a small child,  the enxaneta,  climbs up to the top to complete the castell and raises it’s hand spreading four fingers, a gesture  symbolic of the defiant Catalan flag and its people.

The castell then starts disassembling before the base gives away; this is the most dangerous part because, at this stage, the weight bearing on the shoulders of the lower levels has become enormous and the whole tower trembles and ripples while the viewers hold their breath.   We watched the tower of the Xiquets de Reus collapse, something that resulted in three castellers injured and in need of medical attention, but most times the execution is faultless leading to an immense cheering of the crowd and a great sense of achievement for everyone involved.

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