Castells (Human Tower)

“The other manifestation of our culture that I really like is Castells, which are human towers. And again, the tradition is passed in between the families, because it is a very risky tradition, as they all stand on each other’s shoulders, and, um, the very young kids go all the way to the top, you know and it could be as high as eight or nine levels. So you either grow up inside that tradition and you understand why you’re doing it and you believe in why you’re doing it or there is no way anyone is going to allow their kids to go all the way up there because it is risky. But it also is a very…unique group. People who belong to Castell have been part of it for a many many generations, and again it was forbidden during Franco’s time but they found a way to continue and preserve their own tradition of Castells and they were getting together, you know, secretly, and practicing. And again, after Franco died there has been a renewal and an effort by the government to bring it back.”

Informant Analysis: “Um, I do like Castells very much that although different towns have their different groups and they have different colors, and they take pride in their colors and in their group, in order to make Castell you have to have a huge base that supports the top. What I particularly like from this tradition is even though you belong to another team, if someone is trying to accomplish a very high tower and they need manpower or, you know, power in the base, everyone pitches in, no matter what team you belong to. I think it really represents the union of the Cataluñans as a group, because everyone participates and can be part of it”

Analysis: Castells is a huge event for everyone involved, but it seems that those who are actually forming the human towers capture the most attention and have the biggest job. Despite the focus on the “stars” of the event, the unification element seems very important for this ritual, not only because many different groups of people come together, but also because it brought people together at a darker time in Spain when Franco was ruling. The fact that this tradition survived along with the others the informant describes points to the commitment to sustaining the culture of Spain, even when they had to do it in secret.