BUENOS AIRES – Expectations for Argentina’s Holy Week were already pretty high after the election of the first Argentine pope, anticipating a strong wave of domestic religious tourism.
But the “Francisco Effect” has gone beyond expectations, creating huge demand among Catholic pilgrims from across the region. With occupation rates of around 80% and many hotels already sold out, the traditional Easter celebrations in Argentina are expected this year to cater specifically to the newfound religious fervor that Pope Francis has awakened in Argentina.
In particular, the new pope’s Jesuit background has brought the Argentinian provinces of Misiones and Cordoba into the spotlight and renewed interest in the cultural heritage of the Jesuit congregation.
“There is an increased interest that goes far beyond what we usually get during the high tourist season of Holy Week,” explains Maria Laura Lagable, the director of the ruins of San Ignacio, in Misiones Province, a Jesuit mission dating from 1696. Labable is expecting around 7000 people for Holy Week – 40% more than last year. The ruins, which are in the Guarani baroque style, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.
Processions and biblical images
The Cordoba province, which should see half a million tourists, offers a tour of religious sites including the Society of Jesus – where Bergoglio was spiritual director before being named auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.
Aside from Cordoba’s Jesuit Block – another World Heritage Site – that includes one of the oldest Jesuit churches in South America, there are also five beautiful Jesuit settlements around the province. “They had a very important role in the development of our territory, no only in for their religious aspect but also as productive units,” says tourism director Pablo Canedo.
The rich religious tradition of the Salta province, where hotel occupancy is over 90%, will be seen in the street processions that will be held all around the province. In the small mountain town of Seclantas, 100 locals will represent the Stations of the Cross in a procession.
Many tourists are also expected in the town of Tilcara, in Jujuy province, which is famous for its traditional handicraft depicting biblical images painted fabric.
The city and province of Buenos Aires will also show off their religious buildings and representations during Holy Week.
Argentine airlines have doubled their bookings this year from last year’s Holy Week. On air and on land, tourism in Argentina for Easter is expected to be huge thanks to the “Francisco Effect.”