The New Touristament
Tierra Santa, Buenos Aires, Argentina
We’ve all heard about the kids who beg their parents for a trip to Disneyland. Perhaps you even were one of those kids. What you don’t often hear, though, are stories about children begging to be taken to a theme park all about Jesus.
“Mummy, I want to go and see Christ turn water into wine! I want to see him betrayed and I want to see him denied three times! I wanna wanna wanna!”
Still, someone in Buenos Aires thought a theme park dedicated to the stories of The Bible was a good idea and so ‘Tierra Santa’ was born. Again. Ok, no, just once, sorry.
There are no rollercoasters, no log rides, no ferris wheels or fairy floss at Tierra Santa. There is a carousel with manger animals but, other than that, the attractions are all about the life of Jesus. The entire theme park has been made into ye olde biblical village, designed to make visitors feel as if they have been transported back to the time of the New Testament. Even the staff are dressed as Roman soldiers or peasant women. Peasant women with mobile phones, apparently.
Walking through the theme park is like walking through the books of The Bible. The stories of Jesus are told through dioramas in houses and displays in the streets. Statues of guards whipping Jesus; Lazarus rising from his tomb; merchants in the temple; and, of course, the crucifixion.
Throughout the day there are regular shows to highlight the most important moments in the narrative. That’s right – it took God six days to create the universe but you can experience it in just 20 minutes through a sound and light extravaganza. There’s also the Last Supper show (also with sound and light) and the Nativity scene.
The centrepiece of the theme park’s regular events is the hourly resurrection of Jesus. An 18-metre high statue rises from within a mountain while ‘Hallelujah’ booms from the speakers. Although there was a mechanical problem that delayed his rising slightly when I was there. Perhaps it was a reminder of the limits of technology in a world where miracles no longer exist. As was the plane which took off from the airport right next to Tierra Santa and drowned out the choir of angels as Christ was finally resurrected.
For those with a hunger, you can eat at Noah’s Ark, The Gates of Damascus, or the Salem Pizzeria. There’s more than just loaves and fish, although probably not enough to feed 5000. But nothing is out of theme in Tierra Santa and in the markets robed women sell headscarves and jewellery of the times.
One of the most interesting aspects of the theme park was the demographics of the visitors. Parents brought their young children, three generations of a family strolled around together and even young couples (one which made out during most of the creation show) spent the afternoon exploring the sights of the village.
Obviously religion is a much more important part of the culture in South America than it is in many other places of the world. What might feel a bit strange for some people is much more acceptable in Buenos Aires. A trip to Tierra Santa is a way for a family to have a fun day out within the context of their faith. I made some jokes in this post but at the same time it’s hard not to respect the wholesome family entertainment that the theme park represents.