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Catalans Compete to Build Tallest Human Towers in Spain

Published: October 3, 2022
People seen trying to form the tallest human towers during a bi-annual competition in Tarragona, Spain on October 2, 2022. (Image: Screenshot via Reuters)

Spain’s biggest human towers competition took place on Sunday, Oct 2, with some 11,000 spectators packing the bullring in the northeast city of Tarragona to watch the daring Catalan tradition.

Deeply rooted in Catalan culture, human towers, or ‘castells’ are built by ‘castellers’ standing on each other’s shoulders. They compete in teams – ‘colles’ — whose aim is to construct the highest and most complicated tower.

The team from Vilafranca beat 40 other groups to take the top spot and scoop the 16,000 euro (about $15,679) prize at the competition, which takes place every two years.

It was the first competitions after COVID-19 cancellations.

The youngest and most nimble team members – wearing a protective helmet – scramble up the backs and shoulders of their teammates to the top. The highest towers on Sunday were 10 levels high.

“Without kids, there would be no human towers,” sports psychologist Anna Jordand, 30, head of the children’s squad of the Ceballuts team, told Reuters.

“They are the boys and girls who have to go up to the top, they have to coordinate the castells, and this is an essential part.”

The nail-biting competition saw some towers precariously wobble before crumbling, their members falling onto those below. Organizers said 71 people had received medical attention, while 13 were taken to hospital.

Human towers were added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 as an “integral part of(Catalan) cultural identity” that provides members with “a sense of continuity, social cohesion and solidarity”.

“We train twice a week normally but… it’s a social activity that goes beyond making castells and training,” said computer programmer Juan Manuel Rodrigues, 39, who was been in his Tarragona team for 13 years.

The first castells competition in Tarragona bullring took place in 1932 and the competition has been held every other year since 1970.

By Reuters. (Production: Horaci Garcia, Elena Rodriguez, Jessica Jones)