Buenos Aires might not be the first place a tourist would think of if they were looking for the Holy Land in which to soak up some early 1st century spirituality.
If it’s time for a vacation and a person wants a few days in the sun and some inspiration, a trip to The Holy Land is always promising. If the traveler has already been to the Middle East, then the Holy Land, “Tierra Santa”, in Buenos Aires could make for a nice replacement.
Christ’s resurrection was around two thousand years ago. Or so most people think. In Buenos Aires, it happens every hour. On the hour.
Every thirty-six hundred seconds at Tierra Santa park, a 40-foot plastic statue of Jesus moves out of a fiberglass mountain as Handel’s Messiah rocks with the hallelujahs. When the plastic savior has finished his rise, he turns, closes his eyes and shows visitors his palms. Then it’s back into the mount to wait for the next performance.
Tierra Santa might just be the first theme park of its kind on the planet. Opening in 2000 and located adjacent to a water park, a visitor will find water-into-wine Holy City of Jerusalem in all its plastic, plaster and mechanized glory.
Life sized dioramas feature centurions, shepherds and even a Virgin Mary lit up like a disco. Visitors are encouraged to step into the scene and get their pictures taken.
There are also human employees at Tierra Santa, not just fiberglass stand-ins. In Jesus-era clothing, park workers move around the mannequins and visitors to serve burgers, fries and empanadas and empty the garbage. Every Easter, actors move through the Stations of the Cross, complete with fake blood streaming down the actor who plays Jesus. Visitors can capture images as he is crucified for tourists. After his resurrection, he and the actress portraying Mary cheerfully pose for photos.
If a visit to Israel isn’t in the cards this year and a bit of kitsch isn’t minded, then Tierra Santa might be just the place to relax between empanadas and Tango. Watch belly dancing in the park’s “town square” or grab a pita bread in “Baghdad Cafe”. A person might be a tad cynical at first about the idea of a religious theme park, but once inside, visitors can feel transported back to ancient Jerusalem.
Although Tierra Santa is not a place for hyper-religious types looking for a pilgrimage, it can be fun for people who would stop to stare at road side attractions like the world’s largest ball of twine or Ripley’s at the beach. The kitsch value and belly laughs can make the $50 (ARG) bearable.
Several tour companies offer excursions to the park from Center City, but they can be expensive and their schedule unreliable. Hailing one of the ubiquitous cabs is always an option and it will run about $50 (ARG) from Casa Rosada. Number 45 bus, or “collectivo” is probably the ideal way to get to the park. Number 45 has several stops around Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero, both tourist centers, and will drop you off right at the front entrance of the park.
What to Expect
Once the $50 (ARG) admission is paid there’s plenty to see. In different areas of the park visitors can see the story of Creation, a bit on the Old Testament, with an character actor playing Abraham, as a tour guide in this section, and, of course, many scenes from Jesus’ life from the Nativity to the Resurrection.
Different huts in the park tell different stories. Wandering around one will find different saints and historical figures highlighted. Martin Luther, Pope John Paul, Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi, all have their places between the Wailing Wall replica and the forty-feet tall Jesus.
Plan on putting aside a couple hours to visit Buenos Aires’ version of The Holy Land. When back at home and friends start asking about Evita and The Tango. Instead, they can be told of a place where people can witness Jesus’ resurrection, every hour on the hour.
By Jerry Nelson
Tierra Santa Website