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Christmas ‘caganer’ figurines depict independence process

Along with public figures, the 46 new statuettes for 2017 also include female versions for every profession

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07 November 2017 08:21 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Every Christmas, people across Catalonia carefully set up their nativity scene. One element, though, is unique to the culture: the caganer. Bemused onlookers may notice the added figure of a peasant wearing a traditional Catalan red barretina cap, white clothes with trousers pulled down…defecating.

Caganer literally means ‘crapper’ or ‘pooer’ in Catalan, and while its origins are unknown, it’s been around since the 18th century.  Since then, it´s become a staple – if an eccentric one – of the Catalan souvenir collection. This is in part because the main company, Caganer.com, has kept up with pop culture and been regularly churning out more modern caganers of political figures, celebrities, and fictional characters.

Figures from the Catalan independence movement

This year has been no different, and the company has some new – and very topical – additions. These include the jailed presidents of Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, deposed chief of the Catalan police force the Mossos d’Esquadra, and politicians Anna Gabriel and Gabriel Rufián.

The Jordis, Trapero, Gabriel and Rufián aren’t the only figures from the Catalan independence and political scene that have earned caganer-worthy fame. This, according to the company itself, was through conducting researching on what its customers wanted. A few weeks ago, the company released one of its iconic figures in the likeness of Tweety Bird, a cartoon character which has been ironically claimed as a figure by pro-independence groups. Other more conservative additions include the typical peasant caganer, but holding flags with emblems often seen in protests, like a simplistic outline of a face with a red smudge over the mouth to repression imposed by the Spanish government.

Current events through the eyes of Caganer.com

This is also Caganer.com’s 25th anniversary, and to celebrate, the family-run business has released 46 new characters from the world of current events and fiction. The head of the company, Sergi Alós, claims that the company’s challenge is to continue to “surprise” its customers. Marc Alós, the sculptor of the figurines, says that while the creation process is long, the current political situation “makes them work at night” and very “fast” at that, in order to be able to finish by Christmas. He explained that “one has to keep in mind that it takes us about 2 weeks for each new character, but now,” he added, “we have to be a lot faster.” Indeed, in a few weeks, the company says they will already begin planning next year’s releases.

Women, international figures, and fictional characters

Along with more incendiary characters, Catalan culture is also represented with the cuisine molecular gastronomy pioneers Ferran Adrià. The company has also focused on the international this year, with figurines dedicated to the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canadian president Justin Trudeau, North Korean president Kim Jong-un, and newcomer French president Emmanuel Macron. “The United States is our main customer,” explained Sergi Alós, but when it comes to European news “if we have the president of France, it will definitely be the second country where we send the most this Christmas.”

This year also sees an update for the classic caganer staples – all of the ones dedicated to professions that were previously male have a female counterpart, giving the option to purchase a female firefighter, dentist, and lawyers. Additional more figures that have made the cut are people playing sports (including, for the first time, snowboarding), characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, comic books, and video games.

Caganer.com was one of the first Catalan corporations to use a website to open itself to online international business. Now, its selection includes 450 figurines crafted by hand, which visitors can even go see on permanent display at the company’s headquarters in the northern Catalan town of Torroella. 

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  • Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, Gabriel Rufián, Anna Gabriel, Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras as 'caganer' Christmas figurines on November 6 2017 (by ACN)