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Miret-Rovira once belonged to the Castellers de Vilafranca, a team that builds “human towers.” Miret-Rovira was a “pilaner,” a position in the towers specializing in pillars. “It was very specialized. I was on top of a base of 900 people sometimes,” he said.
Miret-Rovira’s dad was a “casteller” and his brother was a coach for the activity. Once he started participating in the activity, “Instead of wanting to go very high, I always wanted to build a big base,” including as many people as possible, Miret-Rovira said.
The 300-year-old tradition originated as a part of a dance “that finished with a little tower,” he said. It got to the point where people wanted to make the tower bigger and bigger, so it became an activity on its own, and, eventually, it was incorporated into street festivals.
For him, it’s about building community. The towers are “built with the people and for the people, from the bottom to the top,” he said.
Preserving the culture
Meritxell Mondejar, a Minneapolis resident, remembers the Casal’s first get-together on St. George’s Day in 2003. “It felt so good to speak Catalan and celebrate and talk about the politics of our country,” she said.
That’s what prompted her and others to found the Casal. Some families get together every two weeks to immerse the younger generation in the Catalan language. Now, her 8-year-old daughter can relate to her grandmother in Barcelona, she said.
“Our literature is a great vehicle for our language. It’s been the only way that our language was not lost,” she said. Through different periods in Catalonia, people were forbidden to write or speak the language. Keeping it alive is “an important thing for us,” she said.
Many people mistake Catalan for a Spanish dialect, but it developed on its own, about the same time, she said.
Carme Calderer, a former president of the Casal and now a math professor at the University of Minnesota, said the Casal creates a “home away from home.”
Calderer, of Plymouth, said the group “allows us to talk about what’s going on in the country, how we can help,” she said. “Although the U.S. is my adopted country, Catalonia is my soul.”
Similarly, the St. George’s event helps to “spread some of the joy that goes with the day, the joy of learning and reading and being part of a community,” she said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.