The "Francisco Effect" In Argentina - Record Number Of Tourists For Holy Week

The ruins of San Ignacio in Argentina
The ruins of San Ignacio in Argentina
Gabriel Bermúdez

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.”

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!