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José Angel Pérez Ocaña
(March 24, 1947 - September 18, 1983) Spain

José Ocaña

Drag artist and painter


Ocaña was born in Cantillana, near Seville, a small Andalusian village and from childhood experienced abuse and marginalisation for not conforming to expected gender stereotypes. His soft demeanour, his "artistic" tastes, his inclination to "dress up" put him in the public eye of intolerance, which, unusually, contributed to reinforcing gis sense of identity.

He moved to Barcelona in 1971, and started a rocess of creating a public identity which by end of the 1970s would become legendary. He created a characted that would become his masterpiece: more than a transvestite, he was an artist of the self. Ocaña performed his fantasies in the streets, in the public eye. His imaginative attire and his play with influences from popular culture made him a recognisable figure.

Among such influences was religious art. The artist recognised the oppressive nature of religion in Spanish society and was aware of the way it was used against homosexuals, but at the same time recognised its sensual and emotional aspects.

The Ramblas, the main street of Barcelona, was his favourite haunt and soon a number of other similarly-minded individuals followed him in extravagant costumes and staging "happenings" or procesiones. As with many other protagonist of the Spanish sexual revolution of the 1970s, in Ocaña's public declarations we find a strong rejection of homosexuality as a category. He sees himself as an essentially individual person, and only asks to be allowed self-expression.

Categories and fixed concepts as "gay culture" for him would be ways of reducing the complexity of his uniqueness. It is important, from an Anglo-American perspective, to listen to such voices: they may have a point and this can be helpful in escaping the over-determined nature of contemporary urban gay identities.

Ocaña during a party in the town, burned for accident and died after a week in the hospital of his town, Cantillana.


Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001 - et alii

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