Miguel Benlloch dances a jota*. It is a complicated way of parodying the theft of millions of pesetas by the then director of the Spanish Civil Guard. “The virgin of Pilar* (State Roldán* Is Thief)” is a performance that critiques specific events in the Spanish political and social milieu of the time by repeatedly declaiming the most famous Aragonese jota.
Benlloch’s Virgen Pilar is a politically engaged and extravagant demythification of the Spanish national identity and its corrupt offspring. The performance took place at the Corpus Fair in Granada, a context that aids the smooth integration of the artist’s action within the popular nature of the fair, in that it becomes part of the day’s events. Benlloch is dressed in typical Aragonese dress and dances a jota whilst he repeatedly sings the phrase “La Virgen del Pilar, no quiere” [The Virgin of Pilar, doesn’t want to], his tone changing gradually with each word. At the same time, he moves some prop letters around, and changes their combination in the words estado / estodo [state / is-all] and ladrón / Roldán [thief / Roldán] (the evolution of the words has been: Estado Ladran [State Bark], Estado Roldán [State Roldán], Estodo Roldán [Is-all Roldán], Estodo Ladrón [Is-all Thief], Estado Ladrón [State Thief]).
One of the main accusations that this performance puts forward is that of the close relationship between power and theft. Taking one of the representatives of the former, the performance carefully examines the sociocultural mechanisms that structure community identities in relationship to common themes and public clichés, making political action and artistic production overlap. A text is performed in a popular song and its dance. It becomes a ritual, a hypnotic mantra about the Virgin of Pilar, it first refers us back to tradition to then turn into an artivist intervention. This is a ludic interference disguising a strong criticism of the fraudulent character of power as was made manifest in the scandal involving the ex-director of the Spanish Civil Guard, Luís Roldán, a man who the state put in that position, and who embezzled millions.
Virgen Pilar dismantles the Spanish political and cultural situation at the time, as it plays with cultural identity clichés, the scams of the bureaucrats and the manipulations of power. The presentation of this social critique follows that of the Middle Ages fairs, with a traditional stall called Cutre Chou. Annual cabaret of performances for the people: “Virgen Pilar is a performance that takes place within the frame of Cutre Chou in the stall of Acción Alternativa [Alternative Action] at the Corpus Fair in Granada 1994. Cutre Chou is a group of friends linked to the former Movimiento Comunista de Andalucía [Communist Movement of Andalucía], now called Acción Alternativa. Since 1986 they’ve been performing once a year in MCA’s stall at Granada’s Corpus Fair, with cabaret parodies of events of the political milieu of the moment.”
The lyrics of the jota, which after the video the spectator cannot get out of her mind, are: “She does not want to be French, the Virgin of Pilar says she does not want to be French, she wants to be captain of the Aragonese troops, of the Aragonese troops...”. This is a statement that was corroborated by facts, with Luís Roldán as the ephemeral captain of the troops.
* Jota is a dance and music typical of Aragón.
* The chapel of the Virgen del Pilar is in Zaragoza, Aragón.
* Luís Roldán was the director of the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) from 1986 until 1993, when he was accused of having stolen over 400 million pesetas. He fled justice but in 1995 he was found and put in prison.