The only place in the world with a tradition of human towers: Catalonia.
Are you aware of the region in Spain known as, Catalonia? It was unknown to me before I became fascinated with Barcelona. In the 15th century, King Ferdinand of Aargon and Queen Isabella of Castile married and Catalonia became a part of Spain. When this happened Catalonia already had it's own language, culture and history. It has been described to me by some Catalans that as they accepted Spain, they felt their own culture being rejected. In 1714, King Felipe V banned the Catalan language and announced the unification of all Spain. The ban continued to be enforced through various leaders until 1975.
Catalan was then spoken in secret and the language was almost lost. Many people who lived through the Spanish Civil War knew only how to speak the language because they were not able to use it in literature. Currently, in terms of numbers of speakers, Catalan is the ninth language spoken in Europe. More than 80 television channels, 100 radio stations are broadcast daily in Catalan.
I have experienced the omnipresence of Catalan during my time in Barcelona. It's used for museums, monuments, street signs, and everyday speech. I was having a difficult time understanding a presentation during La Merce festival and I turned to my friend to ask if she understood, she said, "I don't speak Catalan."
Catalan is a mixture of Spanish, French and Italian. To me it has a Spanish flow, a smooth French tone and Italian flare.
The culture of Catalonia is most easily described as, "something else." For example, the tradition of the Castellers, is a completely unique sport. First of all, the sport takes an entire village to perform. Second, it involves complete trust. Basically, "Castellers" translates to "castle builder" and the sport is the construction of human towers. I had the pleasure of talking with one of the coneixement Castellers, sue nom Miquel, he has been involved with the Castellers de Vila Franca for twenty years. He described that each tower follows a framework passed down for generations,
"Each person has a purpose and is of equal importance, the strategy is in the correct alignment of each individual."
The people who are a part of the tower are known as minions. Every level requires minions of different sizes, shapes and fitness. The bottom is made of the biggest and strongest people, the middle is average build and very strong, the size continues to decrease up to the top, which is usually a young girl of six or seven years old.
I had the honor of becoming a part of the base of a tower with four stories of people. It was an interesting experience. Watching from a far, I felt the anticipation as the tower was built. As I stepped forward and became a part of the base, although I was near to the outside I felt enveloped in the tower. I felt the people holding strong in front of me and the people behind pushing me in. I was told to keep my head down and someone removed my sunglasses, I couldn't see anything but I could feel the tower growing. The music began, that means the base is stable, a flute whistles a tune to symbolize what level of the tower is being built. I could hear the tower growing, I could feel the levels increasing. Finally, I heard the chorus of the flute symbolizing the littlest minion reach the top and cross over. After this moment the tower begins to disintegrate and I was able to remove myself from the base and the event was over.
The process made me feel apart of something like I had never experienced. It was like going into a mosh pit where instead of the ultimate goal of creating a riot; it was creating a structure.
The people of Catalonia are currently contesting for a vote to become independent from Spain. The Castellers symbolize the unity of the Catalans, the sport shows the strength and how that Catalionia is something other than Spain. There will be a vote for their independence the first of October, 2017.
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