"Força, Equilibri, Valor i Seny" (Strength, balance, courage and mindfulness) is the motto of Catalonia's most famous cultural tradition, els Castells, the human towers, which represent solidarity and team spirit among Catalan people. On these depend the success of the tower and even the life of the "aixecadors", the young children that climb up to airy heights of more than eight meters to complete the tower.
The experience of watching a team of "castelleres" forming a tower is quite breath-taking. During cultural festivals, a big group of people, dressed in light, mostly white trousers and shirts, gather on a square that is full of spectators. To the sound of the "Gralles", traditional flutes, and the drums that seem to accompany almost every Catalan culture event, a group of the heavier members of the team forms a circle.All around, other members are supporting them from behind. They are the pinya (pine cone), the foundation of the castell. Once the tower has reached its desired height, four children climb up to complete the "pom de dalt" (upper knob). The last one that goes all the way is the "enxaneta". The child chosen for this role is usually the smallest and lightest and also the one that is celebrated the most after he or she greets the audience with a short wave from the top of the castell. But only after everyone has made it to the ground in the right order and without falling – because only then is the tower finished successfully.
A bit of history: People in Catalonia started to build castells in the early 18 century. They took inspiration from traditional Valencian dances, the Balls de Valencias, which used to end with a small human pyramid. By the mid 19 century, the human towers had become popular across Catalonia, and at the end of the century the tradition reached its peak period when the Xiquets de Valls, the fellows from Valls, set the record as the first team ever to build towers with eight and nine levels. By Leslie Fried / The Local