Spanish & Catalonian Culture: The Human Pyramids of the Catalonian Region of Spain

In many corners of the northeast region of Catalonia, Spain you will find different human pyramids. These formations are called Castells meaning Castles in the Catalan language. These formations participate in the annual Castells competition since the 18th century and UNESCO has recognized them as a specific tradition of Catalonia, which also has its own language – Catalan.

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The competition is so important that many neighbourhoods in the region have Castells clubs. Many of these clubs rehearse twice a week, performing in the weekends in town squares and festivals. They bring their own music, traditional Catalan folk songs to the performance, and as the music starts the participants begin to climb atop each other shoulders. The tower is formed in tiers and each tier or circle has a name in Catalan; Baixos are on the ground and the levels can go up to 10 tiers high.

These human towers have become more popular in the past 10 to 20 years with the Catalan nationalism growing. The region continues to seek autonomy from the central Spanish government. On November 9th Catalonia plans to hold an unofficial referendum to vote on whether or not to break away from Spain and become an independent country in Europe. The Castells have been a way to express their identity and Culture from the times of Franco’s dictatorship; their language and culture were repressed during his near 40 year rule. For Catalans, Castells are “An icon of their culture – A symbol of what citizens can achieve when they work together.”

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