Human towers tradition returns to festivals across Catalonia, with restrictions

A maximum of 160 participants are allowed to take part in the ‘castellers’ tradition

Human towers in Santa Tecla's festivity (by Núria Torres)
Human towers in Santa Tecla's festivity (by Núria Torres) / ACN


September 23, 2021 06:50 PM

Castellers’, the multilayered human towers tradition, are progressively returning after a near two-year hiatus following the coronavirus pandemic. 

After the civil protection authorities announced last week they could return with a maximum of 160 participants and 25 musicians, the historic tradition was seen once again this week in Tarragona for the city’s Santa Tecla celebrations. 

However, they must go ahead with some safety conditions. Measures include wearing an FFP2 mask, completing the tower within 15 minutes, establishing an entry and exit protocol, and being either fully vaccinated or presenting a negative PCR from the past 48 hours. Children under 12 only need to take a rapid test. 

Moreover, interaction between members of different groups - ‘colles’ as they are known in Catalan - or the public is not allowed and participants must exercise thorough hand and foot hygiene. 

Restrictions had greatly limited the activity since the outbreak of the pandemic because it requires the participation of a large number of people and physical contact is essential. 

The first performance of ‘castellers’ was celebrated after a 20-month hiatus in Valls, southern Catalonia, this past June. It was a Covid clinical trial with 100 local team members, however, the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic forced it to stop again. 

Natàlia Garriga, the Catalan culture minister, thanked ‘castellers’ for their patience and responsibility after it was one of the last cultural events to be reactivated again. 

Also in Barcelona, ‘castellers’ are included in the program of La Mercè 2021, which will commence on Friday.  

What are human towers? 

‘Castellers’ (Catalan for castles) are basically human towers usually built by dozens or even hundreds of people coming close together to sustain the base of the ‘castell’. They can be up to 10 stories tall

The human tower is only complete once the ‘enxaneta’, usually a child who can be as young as five, climbs to the very top of the structure and raises an arm. 

There are 'colles' in towns and cities all over Catalonia, each with their own colored shirts, that spend months practising building the tallest and most complex human constructions.