Caganers, Catalonian shitting figurines, are getting in trouble in a California museum.

Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 10:45:29 -0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Caganers defended

Defecating Figurines Part Of Holiday

Tuesday January 8, 2002 9:40 AM

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Placing statuettes of defecating people in Nativity scenes is a Christmastime tradition so old and so strong in Spain’s Catalonia region that even the Roman Catholic Church here doesn’t dare try to ban it.

When an exhibit of the figurines in a California museum sparked an angry denunciation from a Catholic group in the United States, Catalonians who cherish the tradition came ardently to its defense.

“Unfortunately, there are intolerant people who are offended by any little thing,” Josep Maria Joan, director of the Toy Museum of Catalonia, said Monday. His museum has a permanent collection of the figurines, known as caganers.

Spanish artist Antoni Miralda’s exposition “Poetical Gut” at Copia, a food, wine and arts museum in Napa, Calif., features ceramic figurines of the pope, nuns and angels with their pants down, squatting over their bowel movements.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a 350,000-member group based in New York, has written to the museum’s board of trustees to say it finds the show offensive.

“When it’s degrading, everybody knows it except the spin doctors who run the museums,” the group’s president, William Donohue, said Sunday. In a tradition that dates back to the 18th century, Catalonians hide caganers in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends over to try to find them. The figures symbolize fertilization and the hope for prosperity in the coming year, according to Joan.

“It’s really only a game,” he said. “The caganer is not supposed to steal Jesus’ spotlight in the manger scene. But it’s logical that when traditions like this are exported they can be misunderstood.”

An official with the Cultural Heritage department of the Barcelona Roman Catholic diocese, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the tradition as a harmless game for children and indicated the church has no plans to oppose it.

Although the traditional caganer resembles a red-capped Catalonian peasant, Miralda is not the first to depict public figures. Since the 1940s, Catalonians have been making modern renditions of the caganer – including, recently, Osama bin Laden.

For Marti Torrent, founder of the 70-member Association of Friends of the Caganer, the meaning goes deeper than child’s play.

To him, the caganer’s act symbolizes “the fertilization of the earth” and pride in the land of Catalonia, whose inhabitants won the right to speak their own language and govern themselves after the 1939-75 Spanish dictatorship.

“I know that American society is more strict with its religious ideas than we are in Catalonia,” said Torrent, 89, who added that what the caganer does is natural. “Even the king has to do it every day or at least every other day.”

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