Manhattan is world-famous for its skyscrapers. Catalunya is world-renown for its human towers. When the two come together, the result is doubly impressive.

The human tower building team, Castellers de Vilafranca, arrived in New York City on Tuesday evening. Less than 24 hours later, they were on the rooftop bar at 230 Fifth, building human towers with the Empire State Building as their backdrop. 

For New Yorkers who had just stopped by the bar for an after-work drink, the sight of a group of people dressed alike in green shirts and white pants building towers was both a surprise and a delight. As the blue and white lights of the Empire State Building twinkled against the clear night sky, the Castellers de Vilafranca got down—or up—to business, creating several different types of towers, some as high as seven people standing on one another's shoulders. 

 

The group is one of many Catalan groups that practice the tradition of human tower building. The tradition of the castellers dates to the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th century. According to Catalonia regional president Arturo Mas, it symbolizes the core values of the Catalan people: strength, wisdom, value, and balance. People of all ages and sizes can become castellers, but once they've decided to participate in the practice, they must be committed to it. Castel-building demands practice and teamwork. 

This week, the Castellers de Vilafranca have built towers at Castle Clinton, Central Park, Christies, and and the other at the United Nations' Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, among others.

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a freelance writer living in Havana.

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