Fernando Ruiz Vergara

In the censored documentary Rocío, Fernando Ruiz Vergara lays bare the economic and both class and power relations that lie at the basis of the devotion ritual of the Rocío celebrations, and in so doing, manages to alienate a whole region in Spain. This is a historic document, which has been recovered by the Asociación Andaluza Memoria Histórica y Justicia [Andalusian Association for Historical Memory and Justice], presenting in brief but concise form, the spread and evolution of catholicism in Spain. It analyses the reason and logic of Marian faith, as well as the apparition of images of the virgin Mary all over the country, to later focus on the Virgen del Rocío.

“Veneration, a very profound veneration.” (Antonio Hernández Díaz)

Ruiz Vergara’s Rocío is a sober, well fundamented, committed and suggestive demystification of the catholic ritual of the Virgen del Rocío pilgrimage, which could be very well applied to countless similar catholic celebrations all over the country.

The premises from which Rocío sets out are that Spain has not always been a catholic country and that Marian history is based on an homage to women and on a Dominican scam that during the Middle Ages managed to congregate the poor (the miraculous apparition of figures on sites where a chapel would be built was an orchestrated plan to create a net of congregations in areas outside the urban centres). Within the first few minutes the documentary introduces the situation of Marian devotion in Spain, and, in the chapters that follow, it analyses the particular case of the Virgen del Rocío. The university professor Antonio Hernández Díaz and the sociologist Isidoro Moreno explain in voice-over how the figures of the virgin Mary were dismembered in order to give them human appearance with the help of dresses and jewelry. They also give us an account of the anthropological situation of the rich man on horse (powerful farmer), the complex economic politics of the fraternities (which emerged against the Republic), the links between the church and the landowners throughout history, the older brothers’ business, the devout insanity of the poor people for which the pseudo-processions were created (the small Rocío), etc.

One of the main accusations forwarded in this documentary is about the economic gains that the catholic church, always helped by the Spanish political right, generates with these religious pilgrimages. At the same time that the specific differences between the farmer and the agricultural class are presented, we are given an account of how this is used to make the latter worship not just the virgin Mary, but also the patriarchal nobility of the farmer class.

In addition to the depth of the subject being treated, the freshness and fast pace of the editing, of both audio and image, together with the different image qualities and the lighting in the shots (there is a wonderful sequence in which a group of nuns disrobe a figure of the virgin Mary and the remaining naked torso is shown in chiaroscuro), make this a technically praiseworthy documentary.

Strongly grounded in history, Rocío lays bare the social clichés, the economic scams and the social manipulations of this celebratory spectacle that aims to excite the masses. When the documentary was screened for the first time it caused a great scandal in a society that at that time was in transition. This was followed by a number of public denunciations by offended spectators, and as a consequence the author ended up in prison and specific fragments of the film were censored by court order in 1982 and 1984.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Rocío
  • Direction: Fernando Ruiz Vergara
  • Production: Tangana Films. 1980.
  • Duration: 01:20:00
  • Languages: Spanish
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Original format: Mini DV
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: NTSC - PAL
  • License: Copyright