(AFP) – Dec 6, 2008
BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Winning the US presidency has also made Barack Obama the star of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain -- but it's a dubious honour he might prefer not to have.
The US president-elect is the top seller among this year's "caganers", ceramic figurines which show affectionate disrespect for famous personalities from home and abroad.
They have been sold in Catalonia around Christmas since the 18th century, when they were placed in nativity scenes in the hope of bringing good luck and a rich harvest.
But the statuettes show the personalities with their trousers down in the act of defecating.
"The caganer is a very loved and respected figure on the typical Catalan nativity scene," caganer maker Ana Maria Pla says on her website. "It is not a joke, but quite the opposite, it is a tribute to the person, trade, or activity it represents."
Pla and her family make the hand-painted caganers at their factory near Barcelona, which this year has produced around 30,000 of the figurines which sell for between 12 and 14 euros (15 to 18 dollars) each.
"This year, the best seller is Obama. Not so much because he's new but because most of our customers are on the Internet and are in North America," Pla's daughter-in-law Barbara told AFP. "We also get a lot of orders from Latin America."
Obama this year beat France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Last year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was popular, "but this year it's his wife, Carla Bruni, for which we have a lot of orders from France," said Barbara.
In previous years, US President George W. Bush, cast with a globe of the world under his arm, has also been a big seller.
Among this year's newcomers are Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Italian and British counterparts Silvio Berlusconi and Gordon Brown, and Barcelona football club's rising young star Bojan Krkic.
Among Spanish personalities the best seller is Defence Minister Carme Chacon, who this year became the country's first woman in the post.
Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia were the top sellers in the year of their wedding in 2004.
The original caganer, which literally translated from Catalan means "the fertilizer", was a man wearing a red and black hat and peasant costume shown performing his biological functions.
It was believed that his fertile deposits in the soil of the nativity scene would bring a rich harvest.
But over time, the peasant has been replaced with well-known society figures and personalities from the region, Spain and around the world, in a reminder that all people are equal when it comes to biological functions -- even US presidents.
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