Meet the Caganer. A traditional figurine placed in nativity scenes ("pessebre" in Català) throughout Catalunya. Hmmm, what do you think this little guy is doing? Did you learn the word "cagar" in my post about Caga Tió?
In case you missed it, "cagar" means to poop in Català. So, El Caganer is The Pooper (or insert any other poop synonym you prefer). Yes, the Catalans seem to have no hang ups about this bodily function! After all, a popular Catalan saying is "menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort!" In English it translates to "eat well, poop strongly and do not be afraid of death."
You can usually find this little fellow hidden in Catalan nativity scenes. He may be in the background, underneath a bridge, near a haystack or secluded wall of a building. Never is a caganer within site of the manger. People make quite elaborate pessebres here in Spain. Little villages depicting not only the main characters in the manger, but whole towns complete with windmills, weaving looms, rivers, houses, tiny pottery/baskets and just about any other miniature you can imagine.
Look closely at the picture by Ferran Moreno Lanza above of a pessebre with a caganer tucked away taking care of business. You must check out Ferran's pessebre photostream on Flickr to see how detailed the Catalans make their nativity scenes.
You may even find the caganer in city-sponsored nativity scenes. The picture above is from the 2006 Barcelona pessebre in Placa Sant Jaume and taken by Ferran Moreno Lanza. In fact, when the Barcelona Ajuntament (city council) in 2005 did not include a caganer in the pessebre there was a public outcry resulting in a campgain to "Salvem el Cagner/Save the Caganer." The Ajuntament said the caganer did not set a good example as using public spaces as bathrooms is not allowed. The campaign succeeded. The caganer was reinstated in the following year and placed near a dry riverbed (see the picture above), which I suppose is more bathroom-appropriate.
Nobody is quite sure of the caganer's exact origins or reasons for being. The Amics Del Caganer (yes, there is a members-only association for Friends of the Caganer) believe that the placement of the caganer in a nativity scene "is a counterpoint that adds a human side to the representation of the mystery of Christmas." You can read some more caganer theories here.
Today, you can find caganers of famous (or infamous as you see fit) and fictional people.
At the Fira de Sant Llúcia, I visited the stall of Caganer.com. They make and sell Caganers of famous people such as politicians, celebrities, athletes, etc. Even a Hello Kitty with pink poop (which we have by the way, the figurine - not the pink poop)! Check out their promotional video of their 2009 caganer new releases with Miss Hello Kitty making her debut.
I don't know enough Catalan to have any clue what they are saying here, but here is an interview with a Caganer. At least you can hear how Catalan sounds.