Friday, 31 July 2009

Coming Out of the Closet

Some days ago the title "Que surti de l'armari" caught my attention in Vilanova Digital, the digital news service of the comarca Garraf. "May he (or she) come out of the closet." I understood the words but what was it all about? The YouTube clip attached made me conclude that someone was about to launch a locally produced horror movie.

A few days later came the answer: "May he (or, again, she) come out as a casteller". The movie has been made by the human tower team els Bordegassos de Vilanova i la Geltrú, in their efforts to recruit new people. They already count a young woman from Japan and a young man from Romania among their members. Will an immigrant from Sweden with two enxaneta aged boys be their next recruits? My wife would 100% say no. A look into my work calendar tells me to do the same. What my heart says is a different story.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Catalan Flags and Cuban Songs - Festa Major Day 1

Anyone prepared to read a blog in (my admittedly broken) Catalan, can find my impressions of the Festa Major 2009 of Vilanova i la Geltrú at "El bloc de la Festa". When I started working on it, I felt uncertain about how vilanovis de tota la vida would take it that I - a foreigner - came in and commented on their traditions, but it has turned out to be very rewarding. There are amazingly many people who want to help me and, in return, I owe them my full committment. In English, I will limit myself to pass on a bit of the flavour of our festa.

On Wednesday, July 29, the pabordes (a local name for the committee which organises the festa major) hoisted up a huge senyera on the bell tower of the church Sant Antoni Abat. With traditional music, it was a calm and dignified act, but at the same time exciting to watch, since mountaineers from the excursion group La Talaia helped to fix the flag in the sand stone.

With this, the festa major had officially started.

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In the late evening of the same day we were all invited to listen to havaneres. Since I had been to a marvellous concert of this kind in Sitges last summer, since I can not help comparing our towns and, above all, since I want my adopted home town to do things well, I admit being nervous while I walked down to the plaça del Port. I needed not be. We in the audience looked in the direction of the old fishermens' houses, so Vilanova managed to show one of it best faces. More importantly, the group "Els Cremats" from Calella de Palafrugell - the Catalan havanera capital - were truly good singers.

If you, as a tourist in Catalonia, have a chance to enjoy a havanera concert, I really recommend you to do so, in spite of the high average age of the audience. After all, compared to correfocs full of noise and explosions, they are a soft first step into Catalan culture. And the fact that there will be songs in the local language as well as in Spanish, reveals how perfectly bilingual Catalans are.

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Technorati tags: Bilingualism, Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Sitges, Vilanova,

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Recommendations for the Festa Major of Vilanova

In Vilanova i la Geltrú, today is the first day of the official Festa Major 2009 program. Here is a totally subjective summary of the events which I want to highlight. My focus is on popular culture, but I will be happy to try to answer all kinds of questions. Find the full program in Catalan here.

Wednesday, July 29
▫ 20:00 - a huge Catalan flag (la senyera) will be hung from the Sant Antoni Abat church bell tower - much more exciting than it sounds.
▫ 22:00 - a concert of havaneres, finished with a glass of burnt rum at the Plaça del Port.

Thursday, July 30
▫ 17:00 to 21:00 - a kite flying exhibition on the beach Ribes Roges.
▫ 22:15, the local castellers els Bordegassos will practise (assaig) in their premises in the plaça de les Casernes.

Friday, July 31
▫ 11:00 to 13:00 - a chance to climb up the church bell tower of Sant Antoni Abat and see the town from above.
▫ 19:00 - in the plaça Mediterrània, there will be a concert for children by the musicians from Catalan TV3's Club Súper 3.
▫ 20:00 to 22:00 - fly in a hot air balloon on the beach Ribes Roges.
▫ 22:00 and onwards - the correfoc - devils and firesipitting dragons dancing through the streets, from the plaça de les Neus to the plaça de la Vila. In case you plan to participate, make sure to put on old clothes and cover your hair.

Saturday, August 1
▫ 17:00-18:00 – centennial giants from all around Catalonia exhibited in the plaça de la Vila.
▫ 18:00 – all old giants will be paraded through the town (cercavila)
▫ 19:30 – the Bordegassos of Vilanova, the Castellers de Vilafranca and the Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls will assemble human towers (castells) in the plaça de la Vila.

Sunday, August 2
▫ 12:00 – Vilanova’s smallest mulassala Cabreta – celebrates her 25th birthday with a parade through the town.
▫ 19:00 – Local choirs hold a concert in the church of Sant Joan.
▫ 19:00 – The Falcons de Vilanova and the Falcons del Riberal parade through the town and then perform acrobatic human towers in the plaça de la Vila.

Monday, August 3
▫ 19:00 – Small children are invited to stop using pacifiers by giving them to the mulassa - the giant donkey - in the plaça dels Cotxes.
▫ 20:00 – Ball de Bastons (stick dance) by the Gloucester Shire Morris Men and the Colles Grans del Ball de Bastons from Vilanova and Ribes.
▫ 20:30 – The three giant couples from Vilanova and la Geltrú parade through the town.
▫ 22:30 – Jazz concert with Sitjazz and la Fera Ferotge in the plaça de les Cols.

Tuesday, August 4
▫ 11:30 – writer Ramon Solsona reads the Festa Major invitation in the assembly hall of the town hall, plaça de la Vila.
▫ 12:00 – the peak of the Festa Major 2009 starts with 12 cannon ball shots in the plaça de la Vila, accompanied by bell ringing from all churches.
▫ 17:00 – a gralla (a Catalan wind industrument) and bag pipe concert by the Grallers de Santa Madrona and Castelldefels, plus Jordi Inglada and Cristina Boixadera, in the street C/ Major.
▫ 18:30 – a huge popular culture parade through the town centre (Cercavila de la Vigília).
▫ 20:00 – popular culture performances in the plaça de la Vila.
▫ 23:00 – the Festa Major fireworks (N.B.: Catalans love fireworks to an extent which is hard to grasp for a Swede.)

Wednesday, August 5
▫ 9:00 – a popular culture parade (cercavila d’anada a ofici) follows the Festa Major committee (pabordes) on their way to church.
▫ 10:00 – the Festa Major mass at the church Sant Antoni Abat.
▫ 12:30 – popular culture performances in the plaça de la Vila.
▫ 18 :00 – a show of all Catalan folk dances practised in Vilanova, in the plaça de la Vila.
▫ 21:00 – the main popular culture parade through the town (cercavila del Vot del Poble) finished with the inhabitants’ vow to be faithful to our Patron Saint la Mare de Deu de les Neus (Virgin Mary).

Thursday, August 6
▫ 19:00 – Vilanova i la Geltrú’s childrens parade, based on local legends - la cercavila de l'Imaginari - rounds off the popular culture part of the Festa Major 2009.

During the festivities, the Festa Major committee (pabordes) asks everyone to dress up in white.

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Festa Major Related Exhibitions:

'Bestiari Festiu d'Europa 1870-1970' (the Festivity Monster Animals of Europe); historic photos of dragons and other monster animals from European folklore, at La Sala. Until August 9.

'Photos of the Giants of Vilanova' at the Sala Toc (C/ Caputxins). From July 25 to August 9.

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General information:

What I present here are events where I will go, hope to be able to go or, at least, would consider going. I can not guarantee a perfect correctness of the information nor present the latest up-dates or changes of program.

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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Costa Daurada, Festa Major, Human Towers, Penedès, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Centennial Giants Make Vilanova Stand Out

The Festa Major of Vilanova i la Geltrú is not the oldest one, the biggest one or the most typical one (la més típica). Still, I have learnt that it has a very special place in people’s hearts, just because it is ours. And I have begun to feel the same: during the coming week the streets will be full of people and I will bump into acquantances whom I have not seen for a long time and I will, most likely, also make new friends. I will see teachers and parents from my sons’ school and realize that they are in the same dance team as some of my customers or suppliers. The Festa Major is like a contrast liquid which reveals the fine-meshed social network of our little town.

Having said that, although all vilanovins love the Festa Major as it is, we can not help feeling proud when it gets attention in national media, as it does this year. Our oldest local giants – the tallest ones in Catalonia! – celebrate their 300th anniversary and therefore several other giant couples - all older than 100 years - have been brought here from all around Catalonia. Some of these are leaving their home towns for the very first time, due to their high historic value.

My first impression when entering the historic library of the Victor Balaguer Museum was unbeatable: Suddenly I was totally surrounded by giants and that filled me with a deep feeling of respect - a flashing reminder about how small we humans are and how short our life is. Fortunately enough, the presence of my wife pulled me back to reality and we started observing all details: the marble like smooth face of the geganta d’Olot, compared with the scarred one of her warrior husband, who seems tired from all things he has seen. The perfect fairy tale king and queen exemplified by the giants from Manresa. The gegantons de Pi, whose clothes reminded us that, historically, many giants used to be dressed up in new things and always in line with the latest fashion.

The exhibition program is full with anecdotes. For example did we learn that the funny looking Gegants Indis from Reus which will be joined by the Vitxets and Moros from the same town for the Saturday giant parade, and that the three couples were made to symbolise different continents. A fourth couple, representing America, was planned but never built. Well, at least I think that the so called Gegants Indis possibly look like a cartoon version of American Indians, but certainly not like people from India.

As you have already guessed, for all the splendour of the visiting giants, my favourites are our own Gegant de la Porra (the Giant with the Club) and the Geganta Grossa. Vilanova i la Geltrú is my first home in Catalonia and will for a foreseeable future be the model, with which I evaluate things from other parts of this country.

From the perspective of popular culture, decades will pass before our town again receives the chance to host an event of this magnitude and whatever it will be, it will not be a Pan-Catalan Giant Exhibition. So, unless you have seen the it, hurry up to the museum – on Saturday afternoon it will be too late.

Finally, a big hand to the Giant Performers (geganters ) of Vilanova i la Geltrú and the pabordes (the Festa Major committee) for this exceptional program item, which makes our Festa Major shine in the eyes of everyone with an interest in Catalan culture.

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Versió catalana

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Monday, 27 July 2009

Penedès News in English

For towns like ours, which need tourism, the sad events of this week have resulted in bad publicity. Three people have drowned on the Costa Daurada beaches within the Penedès, the beaches of El Vendrell were closed for one day after a girl was bit by a fish and, this weekend, most likely, one man was murdered in the centre of Vilanova i la Geltrú.

The summary below starts with the region as a total and continues with local items; comarca by comarca, municipality by municipality. News from Sitges - our number one expat town - can be found under the headline Garraf.

Gran Penedès

The new desalination plant in Prat de Llobregat – the biggest one in Europe dedicated to urban consumption - has been inaugurated by Catalan president José Montilla. Its purpose is to guarantee that Barcelona does not again face water shortages like those we had last summer, but a consequence of the opening is that the taste and quality of tap water will improve in many parts of the extended metropolitan area, among them the Penedès. (VD)(LaVanguardia)

On Sunday July 19, a 30 year old man from Olesa de Montserrat drowned on the la Mota de Sant Pere beach of Cubelles. The sea was turbulent at the time and the victim had obviously ignored the red warning flags. On July 23, a 47 year old man from León (Castile and León), died on the beaches of Calafell in what is, preliminarily, believed to have been a drowning accident. Finally, on July 24, a 48 year old inhabitant of Vilanova seems to have met the same fate on the Ribes Roges beach of his home town. (VD)(Punt)(Punt)

On Friday July 24, the beaches of el Vendrell were closed off for swimmers after an 11 year old girl had been badly bitten on Sant Salvador. Initially it was feared that she had been attacked by a small shark, but the life guards soon found out that a number of aggressive bluefish (tallahams) had turned up in shallow waters. (LaVanguardia)(Punt)(Avui)(3d8)


A record € 10 million investment will be made in Sitges' most emblematic museums, el Cau Ferrat and Maricel de Mar, plus the building Can Rocamora in between them. The museums will receive a common and handicap friendly entry and at the same time the constructions, directly exposed to the sea, will be reinforced. (VD)

With references to the crisis, Jordi Baijet, PSC mayor of Sitges has made a reshuffle in his local government. Rafal Roig becomes the de facto number two of the team and will have the task to co-ordinate and optimise resources between the other councillors. Marc Quero leaves Human Resources and takes on Projects and Public works, including the new local, so called, mobility pact. The HR function will be taken up by Carmen Prat, councillor of Economic Promotion and Tourism. (VD)(DdV)

The Catalan authorities have given a green light for Sitges to monitor a number of residential areas by security camera, namely Garraf II, Les Terrasses, Rat Penat, Garraf Park, Montgavina, la Llevantina, Quint Mar, Vallpineda and Santa Bàrbara. The cameras are in fact already in place and traffic flows have been adapted to single points of entry. When the new system starts to work, from 22:00 until 6:00 in the morning, people not living in theses areas will have to contact the local police in case they want to enter by car. (Punt)

This weekend, Sitges housed the ''Exopolitics European Summit'' - a major meeting with a focus on extraterrestrial contact with the earth - with high profile participants representing NASA as well as NATO. (VD)

On July 23, in the morning, those living close to the carretera de Sitges in Sant Pere de Ribes had to be evacuated, due to a gas leak caused by works on the sewers. Within an hour people were allowed to return home since the leak in itself had been stopped, but the gas distribution was affected much longer. (Punt)

The decision has been taken to build a new market hall between the C/ Roger de Flor and the ronda de la Masia Nova in Roquetes, based on the model from Sitges – i.e., the construction will be financed by a supermarket chain which receives the right to establish itself in the first floor, while around 20 businesses will be able to rent stands on the ground floor. (Punt)

As a part of its ‘Integral plan for Catalan Circus’, the Generalitat will grant a € 331.000 support to Vilanova i la Geltrú for la Vela - a residence and training area for circus artists – of which € 200.000 will go to improvements of the facilities, € 95.000 to the operations of them and € 36.000 to the annual circus festival Trapezi. (VD)

On Saturday July 25, at 5 o’clock in the morning, a 47 year old Vilanova inhabitant of Spanish nationality was found dead, with his head badly hurt in the central street C/ Cuba. The person who had found the body told the police (mossos d’esquadra) that there had been a loud quarrel, but so far no suspects have been caught. (Punt)(VD)

Vilanova based cable manufacturer Prysmian, which recently made 19 workers redundant when its filing for a workforce regulation (ERO) was not approved, plans for a merger with the Dutch multinational Draka of the same industry. (DdV)

The trade union Confederació General de Treball (CGT) will take the company Mahle to court on the grounds that its members have been discriminated. Of the 90 people recently fired from the Vilanova plant, 66% came from CGT. (DdV)

On July 24, the residential area Mas Trader of Cubelles was connected to the municipal fresh water supplies. (Punt)

Alt Penedès

A survey carried out among the 1.542 visitors to the 2009 edition of Caixa Penedès ViJazz – the Wine and Jazz festival of Vilafranca del Penedès – reveals that it manages to attract visitors from Barcelona (14,5%), from the rest of Catalonia and Spain plus also from abroad (5%). Some 44% came to the festival for the first time. (PD)(3d8)

Pere Regull, CiU mayor of Vilafranca has presented ADIF (the railway infrastructure administration) with an independent survey carried out by the Acoustic and Mechanic Engineering Laboratories of Barcelona Tech (UPC), according to which the new passage through the town by the high-speed train TAV/AVE, does not cause damage to buildings but anyhow results in vibrations at some places 5 times above established limits and noise 13 decibels above what is allowed. To remedy this, the ajuntament suggest that ADIF build a solar energy park to cover the rail tracks. (3d8)(Punt)

The filing for a workforce regulation (ERO), according to which 86 of the 140 workers at the company Utymat in Santa Margarida i els Monjos would be laid off, has been postponed until September 14 by the Generalitat’s Labour Department, since the company has not presented a viability study. (Punt)

Baix Penedès

The retail chain El Corte Inglès has received the licences needed to construct a logistic centre at les Planes Baixes of La Bisbal del Penedès, directly connected to the motorway AP2, but close also to AP7. The centre will give jobs to at least 500 people when it begins to operate by the end of 2010. (Punt)(3d8)


In the Friday afternoon, July 24, a wild fire started between the municipalities Pujalt and Veciana. Like in other parts of Catalonia, the high temperatures combined with hard winds complicated its extinction and 85 hectares were affected before, on the Saturday morning, it was brought under control. (AD)

On July 22, a tank of 2.000 litres of hydrogene peroxide (aigua oxigenada) exploded in the premises of Comercial Godó, S.L. in Igualada. The explosion caused major damage to the warehouse where it took place but nobody was hurt. (Punt)

The lanes for Lleida bound traffic on the motorway A2, which temporarily have been closed near Montmaneu due to the risk of landslides, will re-open coming Tuesday. (AD)

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The main sources of Penedès News in English are AnoiaDiari·cat (AD), Penedès Digital (PD), El Punt (Punt), El 3 de Vuit (3d8) and Vilanova Digital (VD) plus the print version of Diari de Vilanova (DdV). All opinions expressed are my own.

L’Extra remains the only news service which treats the Penedès as a united region, but I will stop making use of it until it goes back to a less heavy format. The current one has repeatedly closed Internet Explorer for me.

A brief on the political party system of Catalonia can be found here.

Earlier editions can be found under the label Penedès News.

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Technorati tags: Anoia, Barcelona, Catalonia, Circus, CiU, Expat, Garraf, Igualada, Montilla, Penedès, PSC, Sitges, Spain, el Vendrell, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Help! Dragons Not Typically Catalan?

A good exhibition makes you question your concept of the world. That happened to me some days ago at the opening of “the Festivity Monster Animals of Europe (Bestiari Festiu d'Europa) 1870-1970” (at La Sala, here in Vilanova), so I warmly recommend it.

The evening started with a short discussion between Jan Grau (department de cultura de la Generalitat) and Ramon Saumell (local folk culture expert), where we learnt that these monsters are symbols of the evil and that what unities the traditions linked to the them is that man is on top of what scares him. It was also pointed out that while dragons seem to exist all around Europe, some countries have local favourites, eg. camels in Italy and horses in England.

'England?', I was thinking while walked up the stairs to the exhibiton hall and almost we before we reached it, did Carles Borell (Canal Blau Gaudeix la Festa) say that we Swedes do not seem very cultural. And what could I say – judging from what we had in front of us he was totally right: pictures from monster parades from all around (Western) Europe, except for the Nordic countries.

The monster tradition which I until now have described as typically Catalan turned out to be almost Pan-European. How could I have missed this? I, who consider myself educated. I knew that I would have difficulties to sleep. My world was shaking.

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Do I know any Catalans how have not seen a dragon? No! Do I know any Englishman who has seen the horn dance? No! Something was wrong here. Back home, my good friends Google and Wikipedia brought back order to my life. After some searching I found traces of the English beast parades, namely the Abbots Bromley horn dance. The fact that I did not find more underlines the difference. The Catalan tradition to parade dragons and monster animals is very much alive - that does, indeed, make it unique.

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By the way, you easily find national folklore or popular culture if you make a Wikipedia search (in English) on Catalonia or Belgium, but not if you try England, France, Italy or Spain. One day I will try to find out why we value this so differently. Those who present Sweden at Wikipedia, certainly do not have anything to say about folklore, but that does not surprise us any longer, or does it?

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Entry to the exhibition Bestiari Festiu d’Europa is free of charge and it will be open until August 9.

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Versió catalana

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Entering Into the Complexity of Vilanova's Festa Major

As a foreigner who wants to learn to know Catalonia, I see the Festa Major as a great opportunity to take the pulse of my adopted hometown: How strong are the old traditions and which new ideas are presented? To what an extent do people participate and how committed are local politicians? For that reason, I will try to cover this year’s Festa Major of Vilanova i la Geltrú in all its aspects – albeit with a focus on poplular culture – and present my findings here in the blog.

Yesterday, Tuesday July 21 was a natural starting point , since in the afternoon, the official Festa Major program was made public. In the presence of the mayor, the town councillor (regidora) of cultural affairs and surprisingly many 'ordinary' vilanovins, the members of the Festa Major committee (pabordes) went through what they considered important or unique for this year. We are, for example, more or less guaranteed to see human towers of nine levels, since, on August 1, both the Castellers de Vilafranca and the Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls will join our local Bordegassos in the Plaça de la Vila.

I will not claim to have understood everything which was said, but it does not matter since I could buy the program and will now be able to go it through at my own pace. (My personal recommendations will, within shortly, turn up in the "Event Calendar".) Except for that, the limitations of my Catalan did not prevent me from seeing that we have a thought-through Festa Major poster and that there will be a lot of Festa Major inspired souvenirs to buy, topics to which I will come back in later posts.

So, who am I to try to describe our Festa Major in English? A historian, ethnologist or anthropologist of Catalan origin? Well, my professional life does, in fact, not have anything to do with popular culture. Now, does that disqualify me from this assignment? I do not think so. First of all, this is my fifth summer in Catalonia, so I am not really a new-comer any longer. Two years ago I felt that it was time to enter into the complexity of this event and translated the Festa Major Program of Vilanova into English. Last year I worked to broaden up my perspective by making comparisons with other Catalan towns and the result was a - still developing - Festa Major glossary.

Having said that, I still have a lot to discover and that is where I hope for help from other people. If you see that I misunderstand details or, even worse, miss the big picture, please, let me know. You will see that I am fast to re-think and eager to improve.

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Versió en Català

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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Human Towers, Penedès, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The 'Wirdheim.CAT' Event Calendar - August 2009

August is a month rich with festes here in the Penedès. Most festivity programs tend to be available only in Catalan but, with the help of this glossary, anyone with an intermediate level of another Latin language will be able to find all necessary information. Nota Bene: all Festa Major programs include sports events, rock concerts and excursions etc, while my focus usually is on Catalan popular culture.

August 1-6; The Festa Major of Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf): Since this is the festa major I know the best, I have created a full list of recommendations on what to see. However, on Saturday, August 1, at 18:00 there will be a parade of centennial giants (gegants) so unique that many people from other parts of Catalonia will come here.

August 17-24; The Festa Major of Sant Bartomeu of Igualada (Anoia)

August 21-27; The Festa Major of Sant Bartomeu of Sitges (Garraf): Many expats praise Sitges for being “so international” and, well, it is. But during its festes this town certainly does 'come out of the closet' and shows its true Catalan colours.

August 22-27; The Festa Major of Sant Julià of Arboç (Baix Penedès): One of the most traditional festes in the Penedès.

August 29 – September 2; The Festa Major of Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès). The one of Vilanova is the one I personally know the best, but the one of Vilafranca is officially classified as state-of-the-art: "la més típica". On September 30, this year's best performance of human towers (la jornada castellera de Sant Fèlix) will take place in the plaça de la Vila ("la més castellera"), participants: Castellers de Vilafranca, Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls, Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls and Minyons de Terrassa.

August 29: At 18:00, a Day of Human Towers (jornada castellera) in the plaça de l'Esglesia in Granollers with the Bordegassos de Vilanova and the Xics de Granollers.

August 29: A Day of Human Towers (jornada castellera) in Sitges with the Colla Jove de Sitges, the Capgrossos de Mataró and the Minyons de Terrassa.

August 29: Human Towers during the Vigil of Sant Fèlix in Vilafranca del Penedès; participants: Castellers de Vilafranca and Xicots de Vilafranca.

August 31: From 11:30, folk dances and the Falcons de Vilafranca in the plaça de la Vila of Vilafranca del Penedès. After this follows the Human Tower celebration of Sant Ramon by the Castellers de Vilafranca and Xicots de Vilafranca.

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'Bestiari d'Europa 1870-1970'; more or less historic photos of dragons and other monsters from European folklore, at La Sala, Vilanova i la Geltrú. Until August 9.

'El laberint i la vida'; a modern art exhibition by Òscar Estruga at LaSala, Vilanova i la Geltrú.

'Photos of the Giants of Vilanova' at the Sala Toc (C/ Caputxins), Vilanova i la Geltrú. From July 25 to August 9.

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General information:

The Wirdheim.CAT event calendar is a presentation of events where I will go, hope to be able to go or, at least, would consider going, centered around Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) and the rest of the Penedès area. If you are interested in a certain date, please, send me a question in a comment or, alternatively, come back to this entry. It will be up-dated whenever I learn about new things and, compared to my native Sweden, in Catalonia information about what will happen tends to come late.

Wirdheim.CAT will to the greatest extent possible refer to official pages (usually in Catalan) for information on the time and location of events and can unfortunately not guarantee to present the latest up-dates or changes of program.

For castells/castellers (human tower) performances outside the Penedès area, please, refer to the tag Agenda Castellera at the Coordinadora de les Colles Castelleres de Catalunya, or the Calendari at

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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Garraf, Human Towers, Igualada, Penedès, Sitges, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Monday, 20 July 2009

FIMPT – Catalan Openness to the World

Small towns have a tendency to only turn up in national media when bad or sad things happen. With that in mind, Vilanova i la Geltrú has been very fortunate during the last few weeks, when Catalan TV and radio has made reports from the innovations fair Attic, the music festival Faraday, the new underwater laboratory and, this weekend, the giant exhibition and FIMPT.

In this entry I will focus on the latter, the Festival internacional de música popular tradicional – Vilanova’s annual world music festival – now celebrated for the 29th time. With my wife and children in Sweden, I have had a unique opportunity to explore the concerts, most of which are for free. It almost goes without saying that my favourite event was Flamenco singer Diego el Cigala, but I also enjoyed Omara Portuondo from Cuba and the Jaipur Kawa Brass band from Rajastan, India.

The concert by Al Tall + Tomeu Penya + Jan Maria Carlotti made me realize that I need to develop my understanding of the Balearic dialects of Catalan – much more difficult than Valencian. The fact that I did not get much of the songs in Occitan does not bother me yet. And, after all, I could have caused myself much worse problems, since I came excitingly close to the flying flags of the abanderats from Tortosa. Unfortunately, I never made it to the concert of the Tibetan monks, but did, at least, catch a sample of their music.

The concert with the name Lo Riu – the last part of a concert triology called SoCatalà by vilanoví Bienvé Moya and where the idea is create new songs with a traditionally Catalan sound – added a local touch to the ending of three highly international festival days.

To anyone who consider Catalans overly introvert when they stress that “Catalonia is not Spain”, I think that FIMPT shows Catalonia at its best; careful to point out its own cultural identity and its links with the Valencian community and the Balearic islands, but at the same time open to influences from Spain and the Spanish language sphere as well as from the world beyond.

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The graphic profile of FIMPT, made by Sebastià Serra, deserves to be mentioned. All pictures are based on embroideries and full of Vilanova references – the sea, the light house and the moon.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Vilanova

Penedès News in English

This week, an underwater laboratory and a unique giant exhibition has made even Catalan national media put an extra focus on Vilanova i la Geltrú. However, as always there are news from the whole of the Penedès, including its number one expat town, Sitges. The presentation starts with the region as a total and continues with local items; comarca by comarca, town by town:

Gran Penedès

Xavier Cardona, president of ADEG (the Business Association of Alt and Baix Penedès plus Garraf) considers the Catalan part of the new model for the financing of the autonomous communities – as recently agreed between Zapatero’s state government and the Catalan Generalitat - “not perfect, but sufficient”. At the same time he regrets that PP has adopted an anti-catalan campaign, insinuating that Catalonia does not any longer show solidarity with the rest of Spain, while figures reveal that the opposite is true. (PD)

Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú and el Vendrell are among the thirteen Catalan coastal towns where there will be mobile phone coverage problems during the summer, since the arrival of tourists sharply increase the number of users. (Avui)(Punt)


Sant Camil – the main public hospital of Garraf – has reported its first four cases of swine flu (grip nova or grip A), all with mild symptoms. The Generalitat reminds everyone to take hygiene measures like covering nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, immediately bin used tissue handkerchiefs and wash the hands regularly. Possible questions will be answered by Sanitat Respon (902 111 444). (DdV)

On July 11, 986 people from 37 teams took part in the 8th Timbalada (a drummer parade) of Sitges. The profit of around € 2.000, made by the bar service, will go to the NGO Sonrisas de Bombay (Smiles of Bombay). (DdV)

The avinguda de Vinyet of Sitges, and above all its pavements, is in a dire need of reform and it has been decided that the work will start in September. (DdV)

July 16, Sitges inaugurated the boat La Vinyet, named after the one which used to carry post from here to Barcelona. La Vinyet has been refurbished to look like a traditional fishing boat and can, for example, be used to let tourist accompany professional fishermen during their work. (DdV)

Sitges based journalist Jordi Barrachina has received the duty of honour to read the opening announcement (pregó) of the festa major on August 21. (DdV)

July 9, 40 sports cars participating in the rally 6to6 Sitges-Monaco drove the 1.200 km from here to there, with the promotion of Sitges as one of the targets. (Xtra)

Josep Antoni Blanco, mayor of Sant Pere de Ribes, has acknowledged that the transformation of the deserted Autodrome Terramar/Sitges into a theme park will take longer than the three years originally foreseen, but that the plan remains. (DdV)

The Nirvana Lounge at Aiguadolç wants to promote Sitges as a town of entrepreneurs by allowing companies to reserve if for “VIP Summer Nights”. The first company to do so was Jaguar for the launch of its XRJ 500 HP model. (Vilaweb)

Spain’s first underwater laboratory has started to operate at a depth of 20 meters, three nautical miles off the coast of Vilanova i la Geltrú. It forms part of ESONET, the European network of marine observatories, and will first and foremost be used by the UPC Barcelona Tech. However, anyone interested in studying what is happening in the Mediterranean - be it for environmental or commercial reasons - will be able to connect their equipment. A cable connection with land allows for uninterrupted power supply as well as real time transmission of data. (DdV)(LaVanguardia)(Avui)

A unique collection of historic giants from all around Catalonia can currently be seen at the Victor Balaguer Museum of Vilanova – among those the Gegants Vells de Solsona and the Gegants d’Olot - to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the local ones. Entry is temporarily free of charge and the exhibition will go on until August 1, when it will be rounded off with a parade (cercavila). (DdV)(Punt)

Ethnologist Bienvé Moya has received the National Award of Popular Culture of Catalonia. Among other things, Moya is the main creator of Vilanova’s Imaginari children’s parade but has also contributed to the historic recuperation of Barcelona’s La Mercé, especially the Correfoc. (VD)(DdV)

With a 100% support among the members, Santi Rodríguez - member of the Parliament of Catalonia and councillor (regidor) of the ajuntament - was reelected president of PP Vilanova. (Punt)

Thanks to money from the Zapatero plan (pla E), Vilanova will be able to double the investments in school maintenance and include fences, gates and other security devices for which there usually are not funds. (DdV)

Hotel owners of Vilanova are irritated with Google since a search with the words “hotels/hoteles Vilanova i la Geltrú” consequently generates lists topped by establishments in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Euskadi). (DdV)

This year, big catches of hake (lluç) and anchovy (seitons) are being brought in and that results in sharp price drops. In June, for example, Vilanova fishermen received € 5,67 per kilo of hake. (DdV)

Alt Penedès

On July 12 in Torredembarra (Tarragonès), the Castellers de Vilafranca assembled Catalonia’s first pillar of seven levels of the season. They now openly declare their goal to build a human tower of ten levels during the Diada de Sant Fèlix. (Avui)(PD)

Nine inhabitants (empadronats) of Vilafranca del Penedès have the chance to win the right to watch the festa majorla més típica – from the balcony of the ajuntament. On the other hand, the town will save € 1.200 in times of crises by cancelling the official dinner on the day of Sant Fèlix. (Punt)(3d8)

The Spanish state has granted € 1 million for the renovation to come at Vinseum – the Museum of the Wine Cultures of Catalonia – located in Vilafranca. (Punt)

CatSalut – the Catalan Public Healthcare System – will optimize resources at all primery attention units (CAP) by closing them at 21:00. As an exception, the CAP of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (until now open 24h/day) will be allowed to close at 24:00. (Punt)(3d8)

The ajuntament of Sant Sadurní plans to build a Pitch and Putt and has studied the existing Penedès golf courses of this kind, in el Vendrell and Sant Jaume dels Domenys. (Punt)(3d8)

With the slogan “The ajuntament explains, the ajuntament listens”, the politicians of Gelida will carry out panel discussions with the citizens of all parts of the town. (PD)

Baix Penedès

Tourism generated income in the Baix Penedès is expected to drop 10% due to the crises, since hotel prices go down and people spend fewer nights away from home. Of the Baix Penedès tourists, almost 50% come from Catalonia and another 28% from other Spanish autonomous regions. (3d8)

El Vendrell has decided to support the candidature of Tarragona to become a European Capital of Culture for 2016, since the legacy of the vendrellenc composer Pau Casals forms part of the campaign. (PD)

The avinguda Juli Cèsar bridge of Cunit – the main connection between the town and the beach area – will be renovated with Plan Zapatero (Pla E) money. (Punt)(3d8)

During its festa major to the honour of Sant Cristòfol, Cunit presented two new small giants (gegantons), where the male character represents fire and the female one water. (PD)


The Igualada workers of Visteon – a car industry sub-supplier - will be on strike during the second half of this month. July 16, they organised a demonstration in Barcelona to protest against the company’s plans to let 123 people (half the work force) go. (Punt)(Xtra)

Igualada has built a new sports park for those interested in trials on bicycle (trial). The official inauguration will take place on July 25. (AD)

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The main sources of Penedès News in English are AnoiaDiari·cat (AD), Penedès Digital (PD), El Punt (Punt), El 3 de Vuit (3d8) and Vilanova Digital (VD) plus the pdf-version of L’Extra (Xtra), and the print version of Diari de Vilanova (DdV). All opinions expressed are my own.

Although I like the local press (premsa comarcal), I must admit that I am highly impressed with the new layout of El Punt, where you, after having entered the name of your town, receive news in three columns; the first related to your municipality and its comarca, the second with news from the Catalan countries (Països Catalans) and the third with the rest of the world.

A brief on the political party system of Catalonia can be found here.

Earlier editions can be found under the label Penedès News.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Castellers, Catalonia, Cunit, Expat, Festa Major, Garraf, Human Towers, Igualada, Penedès, Sant Sadurní, Sitges, Spain, el Vendrell, Vilafranca, Vilanova, Zapatero

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Human Towers in Banyeres del Penedès

Sunday July 12, I took my children to Banyeres del Penedès to watch the Minyons from l’Arboç, the Nens from el Vendrell and the Bordegassos from Vilanova build human towers, as a part of the festa major celebrations. If you have a car, I warmly recommend you to visit some of these low profile diades castelleres. True, in Banyeres we did not see any castell with more than seven levels, but there is an intimacy and a calm which you will never experience in the thick crowds of the more famous ones.

The exhibition took place in the Plaça de l’Om, a square which has received its name from the more than a hundred years old elmtree which stands there. Learning to know this little village was, in all honesty, not what we came for, but a nice bonus of the trip.

The name Banyeres stems from the abundance of underground water at the location and the fertility of the area made people settle here already in the iron age. Some 80% of the land within the municipality is still dedicated to agriculture - grapes, cereals and olives – but today only 15% of the two thousand inhabitants earn their living as farmers. The most historic building of this village it the watch tower la Guardia de Banyeres – now partly in ruins – mentioned in written sources as early as in 938.
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Here are some more castell clips which I made on this day:

4 de 7 amb l’agulla” by the Bordegassos (carregat)
3 de 7” by the Minyons de l’Abroç
3 de 7 amb l’agulla” by the Nens del Vendrell

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More information in Spanish on Banyeres del Penedès (Baix Penedès) can be found here.

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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Human Towers, Penedès, el Vendrell, Vilanova,

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Where Do the Catalan Falcons Come From?

Somebody who sees falcons for the first time might think that they are castellers, building typically Catalan human towers. Although most falcon teams have adopted the gralla music and the waist band (faixa) of the castellers, what they assemble is usually more acrobatic and dynamic. While the first castells were erected as parts of religious ceremonies, falcons has its origin in sports.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Llorenç del Penedès, home of the oldest active team (colla), founded in 1942. It members wear soft shoes and are specialists in performing synchronized formations with clear references to acrobatic gymnastics (acro) and, more precisely, the Czech Sokol movement. Sokol is Czech for the bird of prey falcon.

The five oldest and still active Catalan falcon teams all come from the Penedès region. After those of Llorenç del Penedès follow the teams from Vilafranca (1959), Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Falcons del país de cava, 1992), Piera (1997) and Vilanova (1998)

The Falcons de Barcelona (2003) is the oldest colla outside the Penedès, but at this year’s Falcon meeting as many as three more teams turned up: The Falcons de Castellcir (from the sparsely populated northern part of Vallès Oriental) have, as I understand it, performed during the local festa major since 2004, but formally entered the Federació de colles de Falcons only in 2008. The Falcons de Malla were founded in Osona in 2008. Finally, the Falcons del Riberal (2009) is the newest but also most exotic member since they come from Baó (Roselló) of Northern Catalonia (France).

The 8th annual Trobada de colles de Falcons (Falcons meeting) took place on June 27 in Vilafranca del Penedès and formed part of the hosts' celebrations of their 50th anniversary. The 450 particpants - nine colles - were split into three groups which paraded, and occasionally performed, separately before all they all joined each other at the Plaça de la Vila for simultaneous performances (actuació conjunta).

To stand in a crowd where human pyramids are being built up all around you is a mighty feeling. Many people know that I used to be a gymnast and my close friends are used to me always trying to lift them. Guess which manifestation of Catalan culture I will join as soon as my private life allows for it?

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Gymnastics, Human Towers, Penedès, Sant Sadurní, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Monday, 13 July 2009

Penedès News in English

This week, most expats living in the Gran Penedès will have heard of the brutal murder of Joel Rodríguez in Sitges. Here is a summary of local news from that and other towns of the Penedès, starting with the region as a total, followed by local items, presented comarca by comarca, town by town. Sitges, for example, can be found under the headline Garraf.

Gran Penedès

Penedesfera – the Penedès region’s blogger community - have started to sell t-shirts with the text ‘London, Berlin, New York, El Penedès, Shanghai’, designed by the team behind Cava&Twitts. The profit goes to Catalan TV3’s charity project La Marató. (3d8)

A total of 122 Catalan wines have received 90 points or more by wine connoisseur Parker and have thus made it to his list of quality wine. Out of these, ten wines come from the D.O. Penedès, and another 11 the D.O. Cava. (3d8)

Vilanova mayor Joan Ignasi Elena was unanimously elected the new president of the administrative body (mancomuntat) Pendès-Garraf - in charge of services like water supply and waste treatment in three comarques - after Vilafranca's ex-mayor Marcel Esteva stepped down from the position. (DdV)

Due to the crises, prices of vacation apartments have dropped with 10-20% along the Costa Daurada and in Barcelona. Sitges, together with many resorts on the Costa Brava are exceptions, which manage to maintain the price level of last year. (LaVanguardia)


A Greenpeace report with the name Destrucció a tota costa (destruction along the whole coast) points out that 46,5% of the Catalan coast line has been urbanized, the highest figure in the whole of Spain. The sea water of Garraf is contaminated above all by the river Llobregat, but also from local sources like the Vallcarca cement plant, leakage from the old rubbish dump at Vall d’en Joan and the river Foix. Greenpeace reveals that Garraf mussels contain levels of risk substances above accepted limits and questions how Port Ginesta of Sitges recently added 404 moorings in a the natural park of Garraf while Cubelles plans to create a marina with another 553 moorings. (DdV)

Sitges is still in chock after the July 7 murder of Joel Rodríguez Osorio, especially since it had its origin in a simple quarrel in the queue to a french fries kiosk and was carried in the middle of the centre (C/ Parellades), in daylight and in front of ten direct witnesses. The person who stabbed this 20-year-old boy from Olivella was rapidly caught. The fact that the attacker and his three friends are all of Latin American origin (although three of them have Spanish citizenship) resulted in an march with some 200 participants angrily demanding the immediate expulsion of foreigners who commit crimes and protesting against “Latin Kings”. The four suspects had decided to remain silent when they made their first appearance in front of the criminal court of Vilanova i la Geltrú. (DdV, VD, LaVanguardia, Avui)

Together with the Sitges Tourism Promotion Agency, Brandon Jones - originally from Wales but who has lived here for 23 years and speaks a fluent Catalan – has launched the DVD “the Sitges Cultural Calendar” where he presents his recommendations to the annual events of the town. It is available in English, Catalan and Spanish. (VD)

To compensate for the parking lots lost after the remodelling of the beach front of Sant Sebastià in Sitges, from August this year, a new free-of-charge parking for 300 cars will be constructed next to office of the mossos d’esquadra police. (DdV)

With 3.500 visitors, the 2009 music festival Absolut Faraday of Vilanova i la Geltrú was a major success. Medusa which organises it now faces a dilemma: there is a clear demand for the festival to grow, but if it does it will have to leave the Molí de Mar, the idyllic premises above the sea which makes it so unique. (DdV)

Bosc – the cinema at the Rambla Principal of Vilanova – will open up again from July and onwards. The program will contain mainstream movies as well as alternative titles, managed by the ajuntament while the former owner will operate the kiosk. (DdV)

The municipal kennel (gossera) of Vilanova has been closed down and all dogs and cats which used to live there have been either adopted or moved to the kennel which the mancomunitat Penedès-Garraf operates in Vilafranca. The organisations of voluntary workers were not able to fully supervise the process since a PP proposal with that aim was not adopted by the local tripartit government. (DdV)

Alt Penedès

The presidency of the Consell Comarcal of Alt Penedès was handed over from CiU’s Francesc Olivella to PSC’s Jordi Girona, as foreseen two years ago when all parties with representation decided to split the time of office between the two biggest ones. (3d8)

A big choir from the Concordia University of Nebraska celebrated the US Independence Day, July 4, with a concert in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, after which they had their photo taken accompanied by the local giants (gegants). (PD)

Baix Penedès

Last week, a tourist guide called Excursións pel Baix Penedès (Baix Penedès Excursions) was launched. The book which presents 30 itineraries, complete with maps and an index, is now available at tourist offices and some book stores. (PD)

In spite of the crisis, the ajuntament of El Vendrell has decided to dedicate € 400.000 to investments in the preschool and school facilities of the town. (PD)

The viaduct where the old N-340 passes under railway north of El Vendrell is again open for traffic. Since a lot of pedestrians use it, work has been carried out to make it less steep, broaden the pavement and improve the illumination. (3d8)


July 9-12, thousands of visitors have come to see the sky over Igualada fill up with hot air balloons in the European Balloon Festival. The so called Night Glow part of the program was especially appreciated. Catalan TV3 contributed to the success since the children’s club of Super-3 arranged a lottery of free flights among its viewers. (AD)

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The main sources of Penedès News in English are Vilanova Digital (VD), El 3 de Vuit (3d8), Penedès Digital (PD), AnoiaDiari·cat (AD), La Veu Digital (LVD) plus the print version of Diari de Vilanova (DdV). All opinions expressed are my own.

A brief on the political party system of Catalonia can be found here.

Earlier editions can be found under the label Penedès News.

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, CiU, Garraf, Igualada, Independence, Penedès, Penedesfera, PSC, Sant Sadurní, Sitges, Spain, el Vendrell, Vilafranca, Vilanova