Holy Week in Argentina

Four consecutive days of rest.

Bonnie Tucker / FST
For many Argentines, the four days of Holy Week that run from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday are the longest and most attractive non-workday break of the year. In most cases, the tourism possibilities that they offer those who can afford a getaway are more important than what these dates mean for Christianity. This year they extend from April 1 to 4.
During Holy Week (which to be exact begins on March 28, Palm Sunday), the prices of everything from fish to hotel rooms shoot up in all the country’s vacation spots. And if you don’t like crowds either, give this time of year a miss in your travel schedule. But if you don’t mind either of these inconveniences, there are many destinations from which to choose. Only some offer activities related to religion; most don’t.

Religious tourism
Of the religion-related destinations, what better choice than one of the many Catholic churches of Buenos Aires, or whatever major Argentine city you happen to be in at the time?
Those who prefer a more theatrical approach to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection will be happy to know that the Argentine capital is also home to Tierra Santa, a religious theme park near the city airport that is open on weekends and holidays. Here visitors mingle with groups of life-size statues in Holy Land attire, eat Arab food in restaurants, observe a potter and other artisans at work, watch a belly dancing show, and see an 18-meter Christ arise from behind a mount several times a day. Check the open hours and Holy Week program at http://www.tierrasanta-bsas.com/.
… Pascua Tierra Santa BLOG …

Argentina’s most famous Way of the Cross is not in this theme park, however. It is 350 km south of Buenos Aires, on “Mount Golgotha,” a forested hill in the Buenos Aires Province city of Tandil, which in itself is a delightful year-round vacation spot (see our May 2009 story). Installed on the hillside during the 1940s, the statues of the Stations of the Cross recalling Christ’s ordeal appear beside a path that winds its way amid the trees and ends at a plaza in front of a 15-meter high cement crucifix . This year there will be torchlight processions on the hill the nights of March 30 and April 2, in addition to similar events during daylight hours throughout the week. See the full program at http://www.cultura.tandil.gov.ar/.
… Pascua Tandil BLOG … During Holy Week, the Tucumán town of Tafí del Valle, located 1,300 km northwest of Buenos Aires, stages an outdoor passion play that is watched by a multitude on a hillside just outside town. This play, inspired by the one that takes place every ten years in Oberammergau, Germany, was the idea of a well-traveled Tucumán oculist who thought it would be a good way to raise funds for the hospital of Tafí del Valle. The cast includes amateur actors from the town and professionals from the provincial capital. The spectators follow them from one stage set to the next. The first play, staged in 1992, featured 70 actors and was attended by a few hundred spectators. Now there are nearly 200 actors and their audience runs into the thousands. There are two 7pm shows: one on April 2 and the other on April 3. Proceeds go to the local hospital. At 8:30pm on April 1 and 3, the La Banda Jesuit Museum at the opposite end of the valley from Tafí will be the venue of free concerts of jazz and classical music, respectively. More at http://www.tucuman.gov.ar/.
… foto Pascua Tafí BLOG … The department of Arauco, the major olive-growing area of the northwestern province of La Rioja, is home to a natural shrine known as El Señor de la Peña (the Lord of the Rock), a solitary 12-meter-high granite rock with an unmistakably human profile in the middle of a plain between two mountain chains. Evidently, at some unknown time in the earth’s history, a cataclysm dislodged the rock from some distant mountain and sent it rolling to its present location on the plain. Venerated by the Indians even before the arrival of the conquistadores, the rock’s Christ-like profile draws thousands of pilgrims who make their petitions and light candles there during Holy Week, spending one or more nights on the site. It is located some 1,300 km from Buenos Aires.
… foto Pascua Señor de la Peña BLOG … Nearby is the Barreal de Arauco, an ancient, absolutely flat lake pan with no vegetation. Recently, a cabin court was built there to accommodate kite buggying and land yachting enthusiasts who come to enjoy winds that can surpass 50 km per hour. In October the National Kite Buggy Championship takes place on the Barreal. See http://www.turismolarioja.gov.ar/.
Tilcara, one of the most famous towns of Jujuy’s Humahuaca Valley in northwestern Argentina, owes its fame to its pre-Hispanic fortress, and to the numerous music festivals that it hosts. Its residents celebrate Easter with ermitas, large painting-like (icon collages of dried petals, leaves, seeds and other items) that mark the Stations of the Way of the Cross procession that takes place on Friday night. After Easter, most of the families or groups of neighbors who made the icons donate their creations to the town’s icon museum. The icon-making custom dates back to the 1970s, when it was installed by a local priest.
… foto Pascua Tilcara BLOG … In Tilcara, which is 1,515 km from Buenos Aires, the local action sport is paragliding off the mountains behind the town; those in the know say that the air is thinner owing to the altitude and the descent is faster than in other places. See http://www.turismo.jujuy.gov.ar/.
In the neighboring province of Salta, a long agenda of all sorts of activities awaits visitors who go there to spend Holy Week. Of these, the most picturesque is the traditional parody of a Judas-burning show in Cachi, which this year will take place on April 3. Before the cloth doll is destroyed with fireworks, someone reads off a list of picaresque gossip about leading townspeople. See http://www.turismosalta.gov.ar/.
Puerto Madryn, the Chubut port city 1,375 km southwest of Buenos Aires that that offers whale watching from June to December and diving all year round, is more attuned to the sea than the desert. Not surprisingly, it has developed its own peculiar version of Easter: divers lower a cross and 12 of the 14 Stations of the Cross to the sea floor near the beach, and the meditations of a priest in a wet suit who swims the Stations is broadcast over loudspeakers to the townspeople who look on from the tourist wharf. See http://www.madryn.gov.ar/ for the exact date.
… foto Puerto Madryn BLOG … Junín de los Andes a city in the province of Neuquén 1,600 km southwest of Buenos Aires, is famed for its trout fishing (from November to May 31, and all year in some lakes), and for the spectacular Lanín volcano (3,776 meters above sea level) that also attracts climbers throughout the year. But Junín has a peculiar “Via Christi” Way of the Cross with 17 Stations whose characters present events from national as well as Biblical history; several have Mapuche features.
…. Foto Pascua Junín de los Andes BLOG … Conventional tourism
However, most tourists choose Junín de los Andes for just rest and recreation. Located in a Valdivian rain forest sector of Lanín National Park, the Lahuen Co eco-resort and thermal spa (http://www.lahuenco.com/) is open all year round, even with snow on the ground. Its all-inclusive rate per person in a double room starts at US$ 270 in high season and US$ 216 in low season. Visitors who just wish to spend the day in their spa pay US$ 100 or US$ 80. All programs are for guests older than 15.
…. Foto Pascua Lahuen Co BLOG … According to a recent press release, lodging in Junín de los Andes costs a lot less; a double room in a hotel requires an outlay of 220 pesos on average, and 190 pesos in an inn), while meals vary from 100 to 50 pesos per person. See http://www.junindelosandes.gov.ar/.
Many other hotels throughout the country attempt to lure tourists during these four days without appealing to religion. Few if any packages include wine with meals, or tips. When one calculates the cost-benefit ratio, it is necessary to take into account the time one arrives and leaves the place in order to know what meals and excursions are really included in the package. In almost all cases, Holy Week comes with high-season rates.
Among the select accommodations that seek guests during Holy Week is the Yacutinga Lodge, an eco-resort in the province of Misiones that caters to birders and hikers who like rain forests and nature in general. Children younger than 8 are not accepted. The lodge is located in a private nature reserve inside a meander of the Iguazú River 60 km south of Iguazú Falls and some 1,400 km northeast of Buenos Aires. Here, an all-inclusive two-night (three-day) package starts at US$ 410 per person in a two-person bungalow in a luxuriant palmetto forest. Hiking, birding, nature interpretation and sit-on-top kayak excursions are the activities on offer. Guests are picked up and left at a small shopping center on the outskirts of Puerto Iguazú, not the airport. More at http://www.yacutinga.com/.
… Foto Pascua Yacutinga BLOG … Another option is offered at the opposite end of the country, in El Calafate nearly 2,800 km – a three-hour direct flight – southwest of Buenos Aires. The Eolo Hotel, which is located inside a ranch halfway between the town and the national park with the famous Perito Moreno glacier, is a member of Relais & Chateaux, a prestigious international group of luxury hotels and restaurants owned and run by individual proprietors. It is considered by many to be an excellent choice for those who want to experience the best of the area´s landscapes (the Andes, the steppe or the lake), all of which are visible from the hotel building. This year Eolo is ending the season with an April 1-7 Wine Week of daily tastings at cocktail time that deal with a region, winery or varietal. Hiking, mountain biking and nature interpretation excursions are the on-ranch activities. From March 21 to April 20, the hotel is offering a two-night package at discount rates that start at US$ 590 per person in a double room, including meals, activities and transfers from and to the airport. Children older than 12 pay the same rate as their parents. More at http://www.eolo.com.ar/.
… Foto Pascua Eolo BLOG … Easter marks a changing of the guard in the country’s outdoor vacation locations. In the Patagonian region in the south, the good-weather time of the year (spring, summer and early autumn) is about to end, and guest ranches as well as many hotels (like Eolo) that are not near ski centers wind up their season after the four-day Holy Week mini-vacation. As a result, the main flow of tourists who are not keen on snow or skiing will move to the country’s semiarid or subtropical northern provinces, where the climate tends to be cooler and drier during the winter months.

PHOTO CREDITS: A corner of the Tierra Santa theme park in Buenos Aires, Bonnie Tucker. A Station of the Way of the Cross in Tandil, Bonnie Tucker. A passion play in Tafí del Valle, Tucumán Tourism Secretariat. The Lord of the Rock in La Rioja, Bonnie Tucker. A weaver at work in front of an Easter icon in Tilcara, Jujuy, Bonnie Tucker. Preparations for a watery Easter ceremony in Puerto Madryn, Puerto Madryn Tourist Office. Christ washes the feet of an old Mapuche lady in the Via Christi Way of the Cross in Junín de los Andes, Le Mot. Indoor thermal pools at Lahuen Co, Lahuen Co. A bungalow at Yacutinga in Misiones, Yacutinga Lodge. A suite of the Eolo Hotel in Santa Cruz, Eolo Hotel

Tall ships a big success in Puerto Madero

The Velas Sudamérica 2010 regatta draws multitudes.

Bonnie Tucker / FST
Until late on Monday, March 8, the tall ships from eight South American countries and two European nations that are participating in Velas Sudamérica 2010 – the international regatta celebrating the bicentennials of Argentina and Chile – will be open to the public in Buenos Aires’ old port area.
… foto 2859 tres buques en Dique 4 … From 11am to 8pm, the crews of the brigs, frigates and other sailing vessels representing Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela will offer free guided tours of their vessels.
Most of the tall ships in the port are navy training vessels that bring to mind the years of the 19th century when South American countries achieved independence. They are participating in or accompanying this regatta, which began in early February in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will end in late June in Veracruz, Mexico. More than 200,000 people visited the ships during the weekend.
… foto 2854 buque colombiano con multitud … Monday will be the best day to see the tall ships, because it is a work day and there will be fewer people queuing to see them, and there will be more time to catch details such as the figurehead of the Ecuadorian big, which features a condor rather than a scantily attired woman.
… foto 2876 mascarón de proa condor … Most of the boats are moored in the Navy sector of the Dársena Norte basin. There are three in Dique 4 and one in Dique 3 in Puerto Madero. During the weekend, the Sturla boat company offered Dársena Norte excursions that gave passengers a look at the big ships from the water.
… foto 2863 dos buques en Dársena Norte … On Saturday the crews of the sailing ships in the port took part in a colorful parade in Plaza San Martín to the accompaniment of the popular music of the respective countries played by the Argentine Navy’s Symphonic Orchestra.
… foto 2891 queche de Prefectura con pelotas de la muni en Dique 4 Before their arrival in Buenos Aires, the ships visited the ports of Mar del Plata in Argentina and Montevideo in Uruguay. On March 9 they will sail southwards. Their schedule has them passing Staten Island on the 18th, visiting Ushuaia from the 20th to the 23rd, rounding Cape Horn on the 24th and calling in Punta Arenas from the 27th to the 30th. April will see them in ports of Chile and Peru, May in Ecuador and Colombia, and June in the Caribbean.

PHOTO CREDITS: Behind the stern of Colombia´s brig Gloria appear Uruguay’s schooner Capitán Miranda and Ecuador’s brig Guayas; people queue up to see the Gloria; the figurehead of the Guayas; Portugal’s Sagres frigate and Mexico’s Cuauhtémoc sailing ship in Dársena Norte; the Argentine Coast Guard ketch Dr. Bernardo Houssay and floating spheres allusive to the Bicentennial celebrations in Dique 3, all by Marcelo Imbellone.