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Photo by Jordi Farrera
The Barcelona Falcons
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Photo by Andrea Moreno
The Barcelona Falcons
In the mid-18th century, the elites of several Eastern European nations (Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and others) began to show interest in the introduction of gymnastics to the field of education. Some historians credit the influence of humanist writers, such as Johann Amos Comenius, who advocated maintaining a healthy body as a path to a healthy mind. Others argue that the nations’ monarchs were interested in the physical training of potential troops via sports associations as a method of self-assertion against the political empires that dominated their countries at that point in history. These organisations were often named after popular folk heroes or social revolutionary figures—in the Czech Republic the practice was called sokol, which means ‘falcon’ in Czech.
The philosophy of physical exercise linking to mental strength appealed to Albert Bonet, a Catalan Monsignor who attended a sokol exhibition in Prague. It was through his influence, and that of other prominent nationalist conservatives, that the Falcons were created in Catalunya in the Thirties, with the support of social organisations such as the Ateneu Popular de Barcelona, Palestra, and the Federation of Young Christians of Catalunya.
The Federation of Young Christians was the group that took the strongest interest in the Falcons; by the start of the Spanish Civil War, they had amassed over a thousand practitioners. The war put a stop to the movement, as the Fascists considered the Falcons to be a ‘separatist’ activity, whilst the Republicans thought the Falcons to be a Fascist movement. It was not until 1942 that the Falcons Llorenc del Penedès—a group that is still active today—formed and rekindled the Falcons organisations. Today, there are 11 official Falcons groups in Catalunya.
The creation of the Falcons of Barcelona was the brainchild of Pere Rovira, who was a member of the local Castellers. Rovira attended the annual gathering of Catalan Falcon groups in 2002 in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, loved what he saw, and proposed the idea of forming a Falcons organisation in the city. He enlisted the help of the Barcelona Castellers, friends and acquaintances, and started holding rehearsals at the Jesuit College of El Clot. Their official debut as the ‘7th Colla of the Falcons of Catalunya’ was in February 2003 at the festival of Santa Eulàlia. Since then, they have expanded rapidly from a ‘colla’ (group) of fewer than 20 members to up to 75.
At first glance, many may not see the difference between the Falcons and the Castellers, but Cristina Moevius, responsible for Communications and Public Relations for the Falcons, says that there are a number distinctions besides the difference in geographical origins (Castellers originated in Valencia). The Falcons construct acrobatic figures in a wide variety of shapes, the designs often created or stylistically adapted by each individual colla, with no internal support structure to help the participants maintain their balance. The musical accompaniment is continually changing, and constructions can be dynamic or static—the groups are constantly challenging themselves to, as Cristina puts it, “achieve greater verticality.”
Moevius says that it is important to maintain these traditional activities not only for their historical significance and links to the past, but also because the organisation strengthens interpersonal bonds within today’s community. “The skills we learn in rehearsals and at events provide us with a set of core values for life, such as teamwork, overcoming obstacles, perseverance… All this helps the personal development of our members. It is also an activity that unites generations; we have members ranging in age from five or six years old all the way up to 60.”
The Falcons have been active over the summer, performing around Catalunya, at the Sfinks Festival in Belgium, APLEC in Torino, and will be back in Barcelona to participate in La Mercè this month. Their first appearance will be as a part of the Toc d’Inici, or festival inauguration, on September 18th. On September 20th their main Mercè performance will be in Plaça Sant Jaume, and their final appearance at the festival will be as a part of the 20th annual closing show of local associations (La Muestra de Asociaciones).
More information is available on their website: www.falconsdebarcelona.cat.