R t V f F I

Have a shitty xmas

Barcelona’s caganers get political.

Category: Cultura | 22 December, 2014
Editor: Paul-Simon Geddis

It’s Christmas again, which means precisely nothing except for a few days off work, lounge jazz versions of Christmas carols in every shop and cafe and looking forward to starting the new year broke and hungover. Still on a positive note: Caganers.

It’s hard not to raise a smile at these little bits of rude porcelain. While I’ve resisted their charms for the last 5 years of living in Barcelona, this year I caved in and bought two for presents (an owl, and Francoise Hollande for some French relatives). Because no matter how sophisticated you think you are, there’s something about little statues of famous people taking a shit that’s inherently funny.

Call me purile, but it’s not just me.

Caganer.com, one of the largest of the region’s manufacturers, squeezes out approximately 30,000 of the statuettes each year, sold either directly to customers through their website or in around 30 shops across Catalunya. This year, sales are booming, mainly thanks to overseas customers, who seem to have as much of an appetite for the traditional payes figurine as they do for the more novelty figures. Sergio, one of the founders of the company tells me that 80% of their online sales come from overseas, in particular from the US. I’m tempted to read this as the commodification of yet another Catalan tradition but Sergio prefers to see the caganer as an ambassador for Catalan identity. Albeit one with their trousers round their ankles “Our top sellers to the States are Father Christmas, and the traditional Catalan Payes. People buy into the tradition as well as the novelty” he explains, going on to make the point that both online and at their market stall by the Cathedral, they explain the importance of the caganer’s place in the nativity, and it’s quite literal symbolism of fertilization.

Of course, in the 200 odd years since caganers first started popping up (and pooping in) nativities, their role has evolved. Today, caganers are first and foremost satirical, an analogue perhaps of Valencia’s fallas, but that luckily for future cultural historians, don’t go up in flames at the end of the season. Caganers.com is one of the major innovators when it comes to novelty figures, and in the past few years has produced models of everyone from Putin to Obama, as well as various characters from film. (If you’ve ever wondered who came up with the idea of C3PO’s metal poo, Sergio’s to blame).

Two of this year’s new additions to the caganer.com range are specifically interesting, especially in the light of the current economic and political dissatisfaction in Catalunya, and in Spain in general “The decision to make Pablo Iglesias came at the last minute”, Sergio explains. “We’d just presented the collection, and some journalists were surprised at his absence”. The decision to portray the Podemos leader squatting has paid off spectacularly for the company. “Right now we’re making about 150 per day, and they’re totally sold out. We can’t make them fast enough”.

Another interesting addition to the range is David Fernandez, leader of Catalunya’s pro-independence CUP party. While he doesn’t seem to be selling as well as his, broadly speaking, ideological counterpart, (perhaps it’s the lack of hair), it’s still telling that it’s the more radical, anticapitalist Fernandez and not Junqueras that’s been given the caganer treatment

While Sergio tells me that Alicia Sanchez Camacho, the much reviled leader of the Catalan PP also has a caganer, not all polititians are so honoured. As Sergio explains, it has to be someone that enough people are interested in, in order to sell. “I mean there’s the new guy in the PSOE, but people don’t care about him at all”. (He means Pedro Sanchez. I couldn’t remember his name either).

Category: Cultura | 22 December, 2014
Editor: Paul-Simon Geddis




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