Snacks and selfies in the 'Holy Land'

Published
image sourceErica Canepa

In the centre of Buenos Aires, there is a theme park named Tierra Santa (Holy Land) that claimed to be the first religious theme park in the world when it opened.

Tierra Santa, which opened in 2000, attempts to replicate the streets of Jerusalem during Jesus' time.

Visitors walk around the narrow streets that are full of plastic palm trees, statues and actors recreating crucial scenes from Jesus' life.

image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa

Long queues of families, tourists and young couples stand at the entrance.

Many of them come from all over Argentina, but it is not uncommon to spot foreigners.

The park is almost a pilgrimage site for some visitors, with its unique mix of religious reverence and kitschy entertainment.

image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa

The main attraction of the amusement park is a 60ft (18m) high mechanical statue of Jesus that rises up once an hour from a plaster replica of the Golgotha mountaintop.

The event is accompanied by a loud chorus from Handel's Messiah.

When the giant Jesus has completed his ascent, he swivels, closes his eyes and rotates the palms of his hands, provoking great emotion in the visitors at the bottom of the mountain.

image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa

The staff of the park are all dressed in costume inspired by Jesus' era.

Visitors can take pictures next to security guards dressed as ancient Romans or buy a waffle from a Middle Eastern inspired cafe.

The only reminders of modern life come from above: the park is situated right next to Jorge Newbery Airport, and a plane flies over the plastic palm trees every few minutes.

image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa
image sourceErica Canepa

All photographs by Erica Canepa.