Nov. 21, 2010
It’s funny how much of our trip has been spent looking at animatronic saints. Just a few days ago, we were in Huamahuaca, the northernmost city below the border to Bolivia, and among the things to do was get blessed by San Sebastian. We gathered in the town square to witness the appearance of life-sized animatronic San Sebastian, who, every day at noon, pops out of the clock tower to wave his beads over the crowd and bow his head to the tune of Ave Maria. All the visiting gringos were there, as were the servants and artisans of the tourist industry (to provide hats and ice cream if needed).
The ceremony was actually quite pleasant… it made me feel great, and charged up with alms we stormed the cathedral, saw some beautiful religious art including some cool 17 C. statuary of Jesus and Mary with tremendous heads of real hair, a 3D holographic clock of the Last Supper, and learned about the Virgin of Guadalupe (modern day South American mother by immaculate conception and unofficial saint) who walked the continent for 13 years, spreading her peace and love.
If you can imagine the fun of all of this, and appreciate the kitschy ties we have between man and God, than you might be ready for Tierra Santa.
I really love theme parks, so naturally I was psyched to go to a religious one! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, we found the Holy Grail of them all — rather the Holy City of Jerusalem, right in Buenos Aires! If it was to be anything like Murdeshwara in India, then my third eye (and camera) were ready for a wild walk on the religious side.
Tierra Santa rocked my world, so much, in fact, that Jeff and I went back again. This was more the result of a power-outage, which robbed-us of some of Jesus’ best moments on the first visit, but really it was atop my list of things to do (again) before leaving Buenos Aires. Oh, where to start?
It was fun for many reasons:
It was so well-done, hundreds of life-sized sculptures, of every character in the New Testament (plus Ghandi and Mother Teresa), and every chapter of Jesus’ life, plus hundreds of camels, sheep, and other supporting cast. And the city, what attention to detail! The streets, landscape, houses, and Wailing Wall seemed right out of Disney’s Jerusalem.
[ Editor’s note: Ironically, I put on Bill Maher’s film Religulous tonight, and learnt of Holy Land Experience in Orlando. Whoa, it’s like Tierra Santa but even more realistic/extreme!! (Go USA!) Ok this is more of a hot tip than anything. Please continue… ]
We started the tour with the Big Bang, I mean Creation. It was a little cheesy, with laser-lights, then foliage popping-up, and every animal in the Zoo making an appearance, plus Adam and Eve (who literally swung-up in the foreground.) It was enough to get us pumped for The Greatest Story Ever Told. That said, I had to twist Jeff’s arm to hold out an extra 15 minutes and see it first (chronological order!), before the Nativity. But things were already a little hit-or-miss, given we accidentally saw Jesus’ Resurrection (every hour on the hour) before any of it!
I’ve been surveying new and different religions for some time now, but it’s been great to explore Christianity in the Americas because it relates more to my upbringing, and hence strikes some different and familiar chords, albeit quite varied and ever-more colorful in South America than I ever imagined. The life of Jesus is a gruesome story, and to see it up close is quite moving. Watching him being whipped in the square, dragging his gigantic cross and falling, being jeered-at, taunted, and jailed… a woman and I had a moment in the Roman cell where tears welled in her eyes and I acknowledged, “es muy emocionante.” Even the DaVinci-esque Last Supper, though a bit stiff (animatronic), was incredibly tender. Afterwards I went outside and had my photo taken in the Moor cut-out.
I hope this Christmas season finds you all well. That being a given, I also wish you to find some fun in the religious aspects of the holiday. Believers or not, this is one of the most elaborate and decorated dramas known to the modern world, and like the lore of far-east and indigenous religions everywhere, it’s a mighty spectacle worth some appreciation.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!