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Jeremy Rose: Barcelona’s Christmas Crapper Canned

Barcelona’s Christmas Crapper Canned

Story & Images By Jeremy Rose

Caganers (literally shitters) on sale outside the Sagrada Familia

The traditional Caganer – a figurine of a man taking a shit – that has been gracing nativity scenes in Catalonia since at least the 16th century has been omitted from Barcelona’s official Christmas display this year because it was felt not to be in keeping with the city’s attempts to clean itself up.

The city council – or Ajuntament – is expected to pass a controversial bylaw, on December 23, which clamps down on everything from pissing in the street and skateboarding to busking and “aggressive begging.”

The local English language newspaper – Catalonia Today – has warned the bylaw could turn Barcelona into the “Singapore of Europe” and a group of academics has compared the bylaw to a Franco era law “against socially dangerous people” which allowed the police to lock up prostitutes, the homeless, gays and anyone else they deemed to be socially dangerous.

Whether the armless man who rattles a tin in his mouth outside El Corte Ingles - the city’s flashest department store - will qualify as an “aggressive beggar” is yet to be seen.

However, the municipal police, perhaps in anticipation of the bylaw’s introduction, have already moved to prevent a character known as the “Maradona of the Ramblas” from delighting the crowds with his football acrobatics.

And the police seem to have effectively rid the city in recent weeks of the hundreds of illegal streets sellers who used to sell everything from pirated CDs and fake designer sunglasses to African and South American trinkets on the main tourist thoroughfares.

Police having a word with a street performer and his dog

Despite its absence from the official nativity scene Caganers are everywhere. Nativity scenes in shop windows invariably include the figure squatting just outside the manger and Christmas stalls surrounding the Sagrada Familia and the city’s cathedral are overflowing with them.

George Bush Caganer

Most the figurines are the traditional Catalan cloth-capped figure squatting over a caca (shit) but inevitably perhaps there’s also a squatting George W Bush clutching a globe in his hands and in a creative combining of Catalan traditions a castell – or human tower – with the anchorman taking a dump.

Catalan traditions combined: Caganers take on the anchorman role in traditional human towers

And in a 21st Century update of the Caganer tradition, a Catalan television channel has animated a piss-take of King Kong that includes flying Caganers shitting on a giant ape clinging to the city’s landmark telecommunications tower.

A variety of Caganers remains on sale


Jeremy Rose is a Wellington journalist currently based in Barcelona

© Scoop Media

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