Castells from the view of people from New York City

Yesterday i had the opportunity to attend a special Castellers de Barcelona rehearsal, as they were hosts of a group of New Yorkers. The youth football school – oh, sorry, “soccer” school – Manhattan Kickers FC came to Barcelona for their yearly trip, and one of the activities scheduled were castells. They actually knew nothing about castells when they crossed the door of the building, but I bet they will remember that evening most of their life.

The visit started with some explanations from some members of Castellers de Barcelona about what castells are and what they mean to Catalan culture, and the screening of the video made when castells became UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage:

The little players and their parents were very impressed about the fact that castells may fall, and actually one of the questions was precisely about the injures. Dídac, one of the organisers, make the audience laugh when he said “Castells are safer than playing football”. Well, he was in front of a football team! Afterwards, they went downstairs to the rehearse track (I have to say that the building of Castellers de Barcelona is really huge) where they witnessed the rise of three welcome pillars by the Castellers. and then, some of them got sash-rolled.

It’s a fun moment, when you sash-roll somebody who has never seen a castell in his or her life, because most of them don’t know what are they going to do. They are confused and excited at the same time. The excitement of a first-timer is always a lot of fun. 

Welcoming pillars
Welcoming pillars

So they started making some “columns” (at least is the way I say in Saballuts) or “stairs”, in that case. This is: kids learn how to climb and parents learn how to carry weight leaning in a stair, in this case, or a wall, in many cases. That was a lot of fun. Some of the people also dared to make that off the wall. And even without supervision (something that me and the rest of castellers do not advise to do when you’re a first timer).

Most of the kids who dared to climb over their parents’, or any other adult’s shoulders, were pretty good climbing actually. But most of them failed estrepitously when they tried to unclimb! Of course there was a huge idiomatic barrier, too. Most of the castellers talk little English and it’s understandable that for a kid who knows nothing else but English can feel cohibited when he is doing something with a certain risk. As it’s climbing. And when the teacher doesn’t know much English… But nobody got hurt!

At least this time. LOL.

Actually I got really impressed when the Castellers brought a couple of US people to act as a baixos of a tower of 5. It’s a very basic construction, but still. Those guys held the tower straight and nice and they can be proud of doing that. 

Manhattan Kickers FC and Castellers de Barcelona had a great time together
Manhattan Kickers FC and Castellers de Barcelona had a great time together

The rehearsal finished with the raise of 3 pillars, with the enxaneta of each carrying a Manhattan Kickers FC scarf, an Estelada and a US flag.

Oh, yes, I asked some of the parents about their opinion, there it goes:

Fredrik:

Is this the first time you’ve heard about castells?

I think I’ve heard something in the news but briefly, nothing serious

And this was the first time that a kid climbs over your shoulders?

Actually, Marcus is my son and he has been on my shoulders many times but he has never stood on my shoulders

How was the feeling?

It was fine, but I couldn’t see it!

Have you enjoyed it?

Yeah! It’s great!

And you’ll try to do this when you’re going back home?

I’ll be not surprised if Marcus try to do it again at home!

There was even a change of scarfs between Manhattan Kickers and the Penya Blaugrana dels Castellers de Barcelona
There was even a change of scarfs between Manhattan Kickers and the Penya Blaugrana dels Castellers de Barcelona

Stephanie:

Tell me what happened

Today I was at the bottom of the tower and both of my daugher and my son climbed up

Have you ever heard about castells before?

No, this is my first experience.

Ever?

Ever! I’ve never seen anything. So I’m impressed with the teamwork and I think it’s a very beautiful experience to be a part of this so I am very happy to had the opportunity to come here.

Do you gonna let your daughter to climb up your shoulders when you come back home?

(Giggles) I don’t know if I can do it alone! But I hope I can find it out in New York, maybe there are castellers in New York, so now we know…

Don:

You’re all sweat man, what happened?

Well, we build a human tower and I was at the bottom, so I didn’t see how high it was. But it felt heavy, that’s for sure!

It was five stories.

Sounds good! Sounds about right! Great one!

How did you feel?

Well, I had a lot of support in front of me and behind me and we were holding it off all together, I guess we all worked.

Did you feel the weight?

I did. I did. And I am sweaten like a dog right now

Have you heard about castells before?

No, this is my first time hearing about it.

So you haven’t heard anything about castells and today you were at the bottom of a five-story tower. 

Quite a day!

Once you’re back home do you expect to find something like that again?

I hope so! One of the people asked me to start a human tower in New York City so I’ll definitely look into that.

I bet $50 you’ll do it in a year

I’ll do it, for sure! 

Stephanie and the tower. Don was at the bottom of it.
Stephanie and the tower. Don was at the bottom of it.

Hector Núñez (The coach)

How have you seen this?

Well it has been interesting. We wanted the kids to know about castells and the philosophy behind, about teamwork. We do a sports team and this is a value that castells symbolise pretty good.

A lot of people told me they didn’t know about castells until today

This was the main goal of this activity. There was some people who already knew. When we told them about the planning and this activity there was someone who find some information, too. 

You’re the coach and you’re catalan. Some people told me that once back home they will try to find some colles there. You think you can help them?

Well, castells came recently to NYC, I guess from Vilafranca, so I think they will have more information than me about that.

At the end of the rehearsal, the Castellers de Barcelona raised three goodbye pillars
At the end of the rehearsal, the Castellers de Barcelona raised three goodbye pillars
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3 thoughts on “Castells from the view of people from New York City”

  1. Hello New Yorkers!!!
    I’m glad you had a good time in our building. Is always a pleasure to see people enjoying making castells.

    David, a casteller.

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