I found Jesus last weekend. Well, technically, it was more like Robo-Jesus. But still. I haven’t encountered this level of travel mystification since I stumbled upon a Vietnamese amusement park in its off season.
Anyway, here’s how it all went down: After repeatedly reading that one of the oddest/quirkiest/wackiest attractions in Buenos Aires is the Jerusalem-themed amusement park, Tierra Santa (translation: Holy Land) — alleged to be the world’s first Christ-based theme park in the world, and then having multiple friends send us recent news articles about the place, Ayaz and I made it our business to get all up in there and pay Tierra Santa a visit.
Tierra Santa, or as I prefer to call it, JESUS WORLD, defied expectation. It defied logic, or reality, or really, anything good and holy. It was 14-plus acres of sheer Christian oddities.
There were statues of ancient Jerusalem guys and gals about town, doing things like baking bread or … standing still or whatever it was the statues were doing, a smattering of Roman centurions looking nasty and drunk, the 3 Wise Men, everyone’s favorite duo: Adam and Eve, the Anunciation, Mary and Joseph on a donkey, speaking of donkeys — there were a smattering of donkey statues, and an ode to St. Francis of Assisi complete with Franciscan monks on bended knee.
And let’s not forget (I know I sure as hell heck can’t) the animatronic reenactments of the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, and the Creation myth (which I might add isn’t presented so much as a myth, but rather shows Adam and Eve springing jauntily sideways from the Earth while surrounded by rhinos, tigers and a well-placed elephant).
At times JESUS WORLD had a downright festive atmosphere — filled with statues of rowdy ancient guards gnawing on chicken bones, Armenian-themed restaurants dishing up Baklava, other random haunts portraying ancient watering holes, even a rousing performance by actual, living belly dancers.
But was it holy? Well, I can’t say I felt an overwhelming sense of the good Lord’s presence during the animatronic productions, but then again, I’m not exactly known as a religious fanatic.
That said, there were nuns there. And THAT said, nuns happen to get free entrance to the park.
There were also lots and lots of families with small children who, it seemed, were having a grand old time cavorting around ancient Jerusalem as far as I could tell.
After wandering the grounds, I thought I’d pretty much seen it all — scenes of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus turning water into wine, Jesus washing feet, Jesus healing the infirm, Jesus whipping away those feisty money changers. Only then, I was greeted with some gnarly depictions of people being tortured, slave drivers, Christ getting whipped, and of course, being crucified.
There was a massive mountain erected where he and the 2 thieves hung from crosses. And statues of guards carrying his body to the crypt, post-crucification. It was all … a bit much. And that wasn’t even the END. Because guess what?
It turns out JESUS WORLD is the park that keeps on giving.
The pièce de résistance of JESUS WORLD happens to be a monstrous statue of Christ — Robo Jesus — that rises from the dead in a resurrection reenactment while speakers throughout the park blast Handel’s Messiah. Seriously.
And just when you think the party’s over and he’s stopped rising, HE STARTS TO SPIN.
This, my friends, was really a showstopper. (Pro Tip: Wait for the 1 minute mark…oh, just you wait!)