Buenos Aires’ Fiberglass Jesus Man

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We cram together in stadium seats, waiting for 10:40 p.m. A packed audience from Chile, America, Brazil, and around Argentina pulls out cameras, ready to shoot. Parents clasp little ones in their laps.

A shrill “Hallelujah” recording pierces the Holy Land air. Time for the Resurrection.

He emerges from the plastic mountain and ceremoniously ascends. A fiberglass Jesus several times human size. Hallelujahs ever magnifying from the speakers embedded in the hill, crowd gaga-eyed and madly flashing photos.

Jesus turns his head to the left, leans it back and closes his dark haunting eyes. He turns back straight, opens his eyes and stares. At me? At you? A sacred robot’s grave stare.

Jesus wastes no time, and six Hallelujahs later he’s descended and disappeared again within the mouth of the synthetic rock. A 3-minute resurrection. If you missed it too bad, you have to wait until the next hour (or next day if you miss the 11:40 slot).

This is the top attraction at Tierra Santa (Spanish for Holy Land), Latin America’s prized only Biblical theme park right by the Buenos Aires airport. The constant planes overhead either distract or supplement the heavenly allusions, you pick.

Perhaps you’d like a reenactment of the birth of God, with a light show included? A chance to pose with naked Adam and Eve before their doomed first apple bite? Or a stroll through
fiberglass mini-Bethlehem?

The recent Sunday night I visited the park was packed–staff said it’s boomed with popularity this year since the new Pope is from Argentina. His photo’s in the entrance and employees have started saying that he’ll be gracing the Holy Land with his presence in May (but his visit to Argentina hasn’t even been confirmed).

“Yes, rumor has it,” one Biblically robed manager at an on-site restaurant told me about the Pope’s visit. “We’re very proud.”

The director of the park, however, wouldn’t respond to my questions about the gossip after I sent him multiple emails.

Pope or no, the 13-year-old Tierra Santa is successfully drawing a steady stream of visitors, mainly from outside of Buenos Aires.

“It transports you,” one petite twenty-something-year-old girl from Southern Argentina told me as she strolled in shorts through the little world with a friend. She’s been a handful of times the past several years and said technological advancements in the park had deepened her holy experience there.

And a teenage girl I met in Buenos Aires recently even went on a field trip with her elementary school (also called Tierra Santa) to the park. Years later she still vividly recalls, and praises, the light spectacle of the 7-day creation of the world.

“It was beautiful,” she said, insisting that young children could connect more immediately with such a concrete demonstration.

As for me, when I watched Jesus pop up from his pseudo-mountain I felt completely jarred. The shrill Hallelujahs gave me goosebumps as I marveled at the meaning bestowed in this painted synthetic stick.

Then my mind went to jeweled statues in churches, elaborate movie sets, even printed ink on book pages. Provocative language on signs or graffitied walls. A diamond ring or hundred dollar bill. Where do we draw the line in what to give significance and what to laugh off as the biggest farce of all?

Here’s to you, Fiberglass Jesus Man.

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