The Future of Catalonia’s Casteller

Posted on April 25, 2014


This post was published during the first exhibition of my Catalonia’s Castellers collection last December 2013.   It is about a little boy with the innocence and joy of the promise of being a future casteller. This memory is so vivid as if it were just yesterday. Now as I get ready for the second showing of this collection, I just have to share this memory once again.

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As I was standing by the heat of watching the Castellers de Vilafranca at Festa major de la Bisbal del Penedès, last August 2012,  a man who introduced himself as  Jeroen,  approached me because of the camera I carried.  I guess the massive long lens does merit attention and we had a lengthy conversation of what Castellers was all about.  Before we parted ways, he invited me and my friend Manel, to watch them at their rehearsals.  It was a chance that I would not miss.  And I am glad that I didn’t as it was one with the priceless memories that I keep today.

The day of the rehearsal finally came and we went about the building dedicated solely for the tradition of the Casteller.  There was a thick crowd of both participants and spectators like me.  It was like watching the main event itself.  As I was milling about trying to find interesting things to take pictures of, one little boy caught my eye.  As most of them are doing, it was the camera that he was most curious about.  He would furtively look at me and went about his way, always checking if I am still following him around with my camera.  It seemed like he was quietly telling me to take pictures of his attempts of being an anxaneta.  He could be no more than 5 years old and I found out later from his mom that he was almost four.  I found it too cute as he tried to put on his helmet, refusing help to show how big a boy he was.  And then he was suddenly in a conversation with an adult, probably a matter-of-factly saying he wants to climb to the top like the best anxaneta around.  I wished then I could understand Catalan.  After the conversation was through, he swiftly climbs the back of whom I assumed was his father and then both turned around and he gave me a smile and a wave that the tower is complete just like a very well-trained anxaneta.  It was the moment when I realized that I don’t need words to communicate.

It literally broke my heart that I did not choose this one to be exhibited with the rest the curated images but I thought I’d immortalize it in a blog post.  Through that little boy, I know the future of Catalonia’s Castellers remain steadfast and strong.  I know one day, he would be the one on top Castellers de Vilafranca Castell.  There is no doubt about that.

This is an invitation for you to see the whole collection. Come and see what it is all about. :)

Catalonia’s Castellers
Opening Reception
May 3, 2014, 2:00 – 5:00 pm

The Rivoli
334 Queen St. West, Toronto
Banner Ann
Artist Statement:
Witnessing 7 diadas (Castell Event) last summer of 2012 has made me an advocate to speak and portray the cultural heritage of Catalonia in this collection of images. Recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, the tradition of building castells started towards the end of the 18th century in a small picturesque town in Valls, near the city of Tarragona, in the southern part of Catalonia. In a typical diada, a Castell Event, a community of castellers build several 8 – 10 layers of a tower to demonstrate courage, solidarity, strength and community. As a tower is completed and successfully and safely dismantled, you get to share the moment of euphoria, that elation of witnessing something so basic and primal of achieving a common goal. For this reason, I share Catalonia’s pride and cultural expression that are the Castellers.