No. of Recommendations: 10
...may be the ancient sport of castellers (human castle building) of Catalonia (think Barcelona and vicinity). I suppose watching this video of the just completed championships in Tarragona is my best shot at explaining why I love this part of the world so intensely. Go to this link, wait out the commercial, and then click on the video to the right. You may have to wait out another advertisement, and then comes the triumph of this years champions followed by some dramatic moments with runner-ups.

The teams are grass roots neighborhood clubs, and the actual towers require very very strong and big men at the base, surrounded by and held in by the whole club, quite strong but not too heavy men in the next layer up, very strong lighter men next, lithe strong teenagers next, kids next, and incredibly courageous tots at the top.

I follow and am a patron of one (perennially losing) neighborhood team in Barcelona. The first tower of the year is done in the neighborhood plaza in early spring and is considered an omen for the whole year. When the tower was completed without mishap I found myself weeping in relief, as was about a quarter of the plaza. The video gives you a just a slight taste, as being personally present can be shattering.

Last spring I happened to stand next to one of the young women on the team who, at the appropriate moment, picked up, held, coached and cuddled one of the little kids who would go all the way to the top -- she was keeping him from watching and getting nervous until it was time for him to climb. Her mother was from Africa, and she told me that joining the castellers had 'made her catalan in her heart.' And yes, the strange music you hear in the background are bagpipes -- an ancient holdover of the original celtic tribes of Catalonia.

As you read stories about feckless Spaniards in the weeks ahead, remember that Spain is a mad mosaic, and that there is nothing feckless about these people.

david fb
El meu cor és català
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