Tierra Santa, perched on the banks of the River Plate in Buenos Aires, stakes the unique claim of the world’s first religious theme park. It showcases the life and times of the new testament. A horde of plastic figures and actors make up a bustling Jerusalem, complete with plastic Jesus on the cross and a plastic Last Supper scene. While the scenes may be fake, the transfixed enthusiasm etched on the visitor’s faces is totally real.
The whole park oozes indoctrination and kitsch. Every hour, on the hour, a cartoonish Jesus ascends to heaven from behind a plaster mountain. There is also a Nativity spectacle, which blasts out the story of the Nativity over an ageing PA system while coloured lights shine on yet more plaster figures.
The highlight of the park is the staff. Every poor soul recruited to work in this religious façade has to wear an outfit from ancient Jerusalem. The waiters in the restaurants were dressed as monks, the sweepers cleaning the attractions were kitted out in robes and the security as Roman soldiers, complete with plastic armour, swords and walkie-talkies.
If you have ever wondered what a life-size cartoon version of Jesus on the cross looks like, pay your $200 pesos and have your dream fully realized. The bible may not be your thing. But don’t be fooled, the park itself is not the main spectacle.
The real spectacle in Tierra Santa is the incredulous enjoyment smeared across the faces of the people who visit. I was told that many people go on a pilgrimage to reach Tierra Santa, and while I understand that the restaurant serves the best falafel in Buenos Aires, I couldn’t help but feel a pilgrimage which ends in a selfie with a plastic Adam and Eve would leave me a little disappointed.