A little over 2000 years ago, a man was born. He was a special man, a man who some say had divine abilities: healing the sick, resurrecting the dead, turning water into wine. He changed the world more than any one man in history, and millennia later is still one of the most popular dudes on the planet. Jesus, whether you believe in him or not, was without a doubt a pretty powerful guy. But even with all his resources, he could never have dreamed of a place like Buenos Aires’ Tierra Santa.
Tierra Santa (Holy Land) is a Jesus-themed amusement park, just past Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, along the beautiful Costanera Norte. This amusement park is an attempted replication of the ancient city of Jerusalem, and offers a full tour through all the major moments of Jesus’ life, along with monuments to other important figures in the history of religion. According to its website, it is the first religiously themed park in the world, and boasts an 18-meter (60 feet) statue of the guest of honor.
There was absolutely nothing, divine or otherwise, that was going to keep me from checking this place out. I’m no zealot, but religion has always interested me, especially seeing how it has been manipulated or transformed in order to meet modern needs and interests. As a semi-confrontational Jew, I had a few resignations about how I would be accepted in Tierra Santa, but even that couldn’t deter me from visiting. Did I mention the 60-foot Jesus statue?
I finally had the chance to go one lovely Sunday, which at the same time seemed like the right and wrong day to be going. Getting there is relatively easy—the 160 bus from Plaza Italia is probably your best bet. Once you hop off, you are put into the anno Domini mood instantaneously. Just inside the rustic outer wall sits a herd of fake camels and sheep. The people who collect your tickets wear Arab keffiyeh scarves on their heads. The $25 admission price didn’t strike me as very Messiah-y, but I guess everybody’s got to eat.
The first thing you see, after a conveniently placed stand selling camera batteries and film, is the Pesebre, or manger. Walking down the hall to the presentation room, there’s a biblical All-Star team of large statues, featuring popular characters ranging from Adam and Eve to Mary Magdalene. I excitedly stopped to take pictures with Abraham and Moses, though the people behind me in line, mostly from a large church group that was visiting at the same time, were much more interested in making it to the big event. Awaiting us was a life-size Nativity scene/laser show, complete with modest special effects and an ominous voice-over. Another ethnically dressed guide gave some short instructions, and we were finally free to roam the park.