Tierra Santa (Holy Land) is a religious theme park on the Northern side of Buenos Aires next to the Rio de la Plata. It is an unusual place. It was built by the unholy trinity of the government, a trade union, and the private sector after it was deemed to close to the airport to be a traditional theme park with roller-coasters and Ferris wheels. Tierra Santa claims to be the world’s first religious theme park, which sounds strangely similar to Buenos Aires’ other theme park’s (La República de los Niños) claim to have been the theme park that Walt Disney ripped off for Disneyland.Possible plagiarism aside, the park’s main attraction is a 40 foot fiberglass statue of Jesus that rises out of some fake rocks every hour. This, of course, is set in a strangely artificial model of Jerusalem from the time of Jesus which also includes Romans(accurate), a synagogue(correct), a… mosque?(only 600 years off) and statues of Gandhi, John Paul II, and Martin Luther. I’m not certain which one is the most out of place in first century Jerusalem.
The entry fee for all this glory is a mere 150 ($9.89) pesos for adults and 65 ($4.29)for children. And bring cash. Apparently they only take cards without chips.
Upon gaining entrance to the park, you immediately find yourself in one of the weirdest dream worlds you never wanted to dream about. The staff all wear various period clothes, from the Salem Pizzeria and Bar to the obviously plastic draped Roman soldiers of the market. There is even a small bazaar selling Jesus-themed tchotchkes.
A variety of short animatronic shows are available as well. La Creacion (The Creation) is an utterly strange mix of psychedelic lights mixed with large animals making noises to the backdrop of Carmina Burana.
El Pesebre (The Manger) tones down the weird and fills it in with a deep-voiced narration of the nativity punctuated with wild swings of DFX spotlights on stationary animals, followed by the three Magi slightly stooping to show their admiration for Jesus. It also summarizes the Old Testament in 35 meters and includes a spelling error on an English translation of the Ten Commandments.
The exit leads towards a Roman market where a belly-dancing (I think) revue was being held. After it ended, the area cleared out and a replica Weeping Wall was revealed. A picture of the Pope and a high Jewish religious official was hung on it. The whole thing felt slightly sacrilegious. It was nowhere near as bad as their rendition of the Al Aqsa mosque though…
The day ended with the park’s prime attraction. The pride of Tierra Santa, The Resurrection of the forty-foot fiberglass Jesus. It began with the soft sound of drums. A halo appeared above the rocks, rising slowly. Handel’s Messiah rose in swells from the P.A. speakers, murdering the beauty of the piece with each Hallelujah. Jesus’ face rose above the rocks and revealed a pulsing red-lit heart. If the previous hour had been confusing, this was utter befuddlement incarnate.
Jesus rose to his full height and turned to the left a little and stopped. His eyes closed. The red heart kept flickering. His eyes opened again and turned back to the right. This cycle was repeated a few more times, until he began his descent back into the rocks as the Hallelujah chorus sounded once more off the faux rocks. A plane then flew over on its final approach, its deafening engine roar providing the perfect punctuation for the complete oddity that is Tierra Santa.
Cover Photo: Adrian von und zu Teck