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Occupying Las Ramblas: Ocaña's Political Performances in Spain's Democratic Transition


This article demonstrates that José Pérez Ocaña's political performances open up the possibility of questioning the narrative of the transition to democracy in Spain as one resulting from political consensus. Using sources available in documentaries and in the archives of the counterculture, the essay studies Ocaña as a political subject of the transition. Among his public acts, the essay considers his street performances, his sexually explicit performance in the Canet Rock music festival and in International Anarchist Days in 1977, and his problematic participation in gay pride parades in Barcelona. In his public appearances, Ocaña eroded the distinction between public and private while asserting his right to appear. Despite his prominence in countercultural realms, gay activists and anarchist organizations rejected him. I argue that Ocaña opted to disidentify with all labels as he confronted both gender norms and the countercultural public sphere.

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1 Martínez, Guillem, ‘El concepto CT’, in Guillem Martínez, ed., CT o la Cultura de la Transición (Barcelona: Random House Mondadori, 2012), pp. 13–23, here p. 17.

2 See Amador Fernández-Savater, ‘La Cultura de la Transición y el nuevo sentido común’, at, 14 June 2013, accessed 10 November 2017.

3 Castro, Irene, ‘Pedro Sánchez y Albert Rivera invitan a su pacto al resto de partidos “a izquierda y derecha”’,, 24 February 2016, at, accessed 15 January 2018.

4 Unemployment statistics for Spain and EU are accessible at Eurostat; see Spanish newspaper El País provided figures for evictions after a report from Bank of Spain; see, accessed 30 December 2017.

5 Preciado, Beatriz [Paul B.], ‘The Ocaña We Deserve: Campceptualism, Subordination and Performative Policies’, in Romero, Pedro G., ed., Ocaña. 1973–1983: acciones, actuaciones, activismo (Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona/Institut de Cultura, 2011), pp. 412–38, here p. 417.

6 Fernàndez, Josep-Anton, ‘The Authentic Queen and the Invisible Man: Catalan Camp and Its Conditions of Possibility in Ventura Pons's Ocaña, retrat intermitent’, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, 5, 1 (2004), pp. 6982, here p. 71.

7 Viestenz, William, ‘“La que miente cuando besa”: el primer plano metonímico en Ocaña, retrat intermitent (1978)’, in Conxita Domènech and Andrés Lema-Hincapié, eds., Ventura Pons: una mirada excepcional desde el cine catalán (Madrid and Frankfurt am Main: Iberoamericana and Vervuert, 2015), pp. 135–55, here p. 142.

8 There have been previous attempts to uncover remains of the archive of the counterculture, as Germán Labrador Méndez did with poetry in his Letras arrebatadas: Poesía y química en la transición española (Madrid: Devenir, 2009).

9 See Mira, Alberto, De Sodoma a Chueca: Una historia cultural de la homosexualidad en España en el siglo XX (Barcelona: Egales, 2004), Kindle edn, location 9611.

10 My reading of the pragmatics of performance follows Jacques Rancière's ideas on spectatorship, which aim at an active role of the spectator emancipated from the position of the observer. See Rancière, Jacques, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Elliott, Gregory (New York: Verso, 2011).

11 Puig, Tony, ‘Ocaña, la terrible ascención de un marginado?’, Ajoblanco, November 1977, pp. 22–3, here p. 22.

12 Mira, Alberto, ‘Ocaña: Retrat intermitent/Ocaña: An Intermitent Portrait (Ventura Pons, 1977): the Mediterranean Movida and the Passing Away of Francoist Barcelona’, in Maria M. Delgado and Robin W. Fiddian, eds., Spanish Cinema 1973–2010: Auteurism, Politics, Landscape and Memory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 49–63, here p. 59.

13 Sales, Ferrán, ‘El “Gay” violado’, Primera Plana, 31 (29 Sept. 1977), n.p. See Archivo Ocañí, at, accessed 10 September 2017.

14 See, accessed 10 September 2017.

15 Muñoz, José Esteban, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), p. 11.

16 Ibid., p. 12.

17 Mir, Fernando, ‘Barcelona: ciudad de fiestas y marcha’, Ajoblanco, 19 (February 1977), p. 17.

18 ‘Ocaña, el hombre pintado’, Ajoblanco, 23 (June 1977), p. 63.

19 Muñoz, Disidentifications, p. 8.

20 Preciado, ‘The Ocaña We Deserve’, p. 417.

21 Ribas, Pepe, Los 70 a destajo: Ajoblanco y libertad (Barcelona: Booket, 2011), p. 591.

22 Dolan, Jill, ‘Practicing Cultural Disruptions: Gay and Lesbian Representation and Sexuality’, in Reinelt, Janelle G. and Roach, Joseph R., eds., Critical Theory and Performance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), pp. 263–75, here p. 267.

23 Ribas, Los 70 a destajo, p. 591.

24 Luque, Nazario, Los 70 vistos por Nazario y sus amigos (Castellón: Ellago Ediciones, 2004), p. 128.

25 Butler, Judith, Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), p. 26.

26 Ibid., p. 37.

27 Ibid., p. 61.

28 Ibid., p. 34.

29 Ibid., p. 64.

30 Moreno-Caballud, Luis, Cultures of Anyone: Studies on Cultural Democratization in the Spanish Neoliberal Crisis, trans. Linda Grabner-Coronel (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), p. 88.

31 Romero, Pedro G., ed., Ocaña 1973–1983: acciones, actuaciones, activismo (Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona/Institut de Cultura, 2011), p. 264.

32 See Mira, De Sodoma a Chueca, location 7414.

33 Video-Nou's most notable film is the one they recorded at the political discussion during the Anarchist International Days. This film and others by this collective can be accessed occasionally in online platforms such as YouTube.

34 Bourdieu, Pierre, ‘What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Existence of Groups’, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 32 (1987), pp. 117, here p. 15.

35 See Mira, De Sodoma a Chueca, location 11200.

36 See MACBA's podcast ‘A la calle: Audioruta por la Barcelona underground de los años 70’, at, accessed 21 November 2017.

37 Newton, Esther, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. xii. Newton admits in passing that these drag identities could be found among non-white and poor white gays. It is worth noting that this erasure of class and ethnic issues from critical inquiry is what triggered Muñoz to study disidentificatory performance.

38 Preciado, ‘The Ocaña We Deserve’, p. 413.

39 Millán, Fernando, ‘Ocaña en la cárcel, por vestirse de mujer en una noche de verbena’, Party, July 1978. See Archivo Ocañí.

40 Muñoz, Disidentifications, p. 169, emphasis in the original.

41 Luque, Nazario, La vida cotidiana del dibujante underground (Barcelona: Anagrama, 2016), p. 58.

42 In a poster of Flowers that I saw at the Institut del Teatre library in Barcelona, the Spanish assistant director of this production, Celestino Coronado, admits in a blurb that he anticipated that this play would be controversial because of the political circumstances. Flowers ran from 1 to 11 December 1977.

43 Tomás, A. Martínez, ‘Presentación de “Flowers”, un espectáculo de la Lindsay Kemp & Co’., La Vanguardia, 4 December 1977, p. 58.

44 Mérida Jiménez, Rafael M., Transbarcelonas: Cultura, género y sexualidad en la España del siglo XX (Barcelona: Edicions Bellaterra, 2016), p. 140.

45 See ‘Actuació de les artistes Ocaña i Camilo (1977)’, YouTube, at, accessed 15 October 2017.

46 Fernàndez, ‘The Authentic Queen and the Invisible Man’, p. 78.

47 Luque, Los 70, p. 134.

48 See Ocaña Café, at, accessed 25 July 2016.

49 Montalbán, Manuel Vázquez, Barcelonas (Barcelona: Editorial Empúries, 1990), p. 306.

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Theatre Research International
  • ISSN: 0307-8833
  • EISSN: 1474-0672
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