Many people here will tell you that Catalonia is not Spain and popular culture often proves that they are right. Whether it is a folkdance exhibition or a dragon parade – public events tends to start on time. I know this and I knew that the bi-annual “Concurs de Castells” - the Championship of Human Towers - attracts at least 10.000 spectators, and still I thought that it would be enough to arrive at the Plaça de braus in Tarragona fifteen minutes before the beginning of the competition. How many people could possibly be there at ten o'clock on a Sunday morning?
So, I was quite surprised to find out that by then all seats were already taken - experienced spectators know that they are in for a long day. In the end, I had to cling to a railing, but I do not complain since I had a marvellous view of the many thousand participants in the arena, easily recognised as 18 colles (teams) thanks to their shirts in different colours.
This year was the first concurs after the re-modelling of the bull fighting arena and I certainly appreciated the shades which have been added on top of the building. Poor Castellers de Sants and the Joves from Valls plus the audience right behind them, who had to spend the whole day in the gazing sun.
Diades castelleres tend to take time and this is the longest one of them all and thus not an activity where you want to bring small children. Last Sunday the competition lasted for five and half hours and that was a big improvement since many times it has finished after 18.00.
Since - at least officially - you are not allowed back in if you leave the Plaça de braus, the kiosks should not have run out of sandwiches so early. By a strike of luck, I had put some snacks in my backpack, but returning spectators bring what I would rather describe as full meals. And why not? In the end, this is a festa, a celebration of community and team spirit.
The only times I felt that the atmosphere was not only good-hearted was when people booed the Castellers de Vilafranca for interrupting attempts - although that is fully in line with the rules - or when the judges approved their “torre de 8” as carregat (assembled). But we are only humans and maybe irritation is inevitable when one colla so overwhelmingly outperforms the rest. Let us hope that the vilafranquins will have a tougher match next time – the first Sunday of October in 2010.
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For those of you who are prepared to try your Catalan, here is a blog dedicated to the Concurs de Castells.
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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Human Towers, Penedès