Mano del Desierto

Culturalmente Imparando

The topic discussed today by Culturalamente Imparando combines art, wonder and social issues of great relevance in Latin America. In fact, today we move to Chile, to discover the now famous "Mano del Desierto", or the Hand of the Desert.

The Mano del Desierto is a giant hand that suddenly pops up in the middle of one of the driest places in the world: the Atacama desert, in Chile, about 70 km from the city of Antofagasta. The huge building, which at first glance might seem the end of a giant buried sculpture, is actually an independent work.

With a height of 11 meters and positioned at about 1100 meters above sea level, the Mano del Desierto is now the favorite tourist destination for those wandering around here. It was built in 1992 by the Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal and financed by the Corporación Pro Antofagasta. The Chilean artist, a pupil of Otto Waldemar, a world-famous German sculptor, is famous for his works that combine aesthetics with social commitment. It is not unusual to find, among his most famous works, huge sculptures dedicated to the weakest or aimed at denouncing injustices, such as the Hombre Emergiendo a la vida, in Uruguay, and the hand that comes out of the ground in the Juan Carlos Park of Madrid.

As in these other works, the Mano del Desierto also plays an important social role of denunciation and abandonment. The sculpture, which seems to be asking for help, is a representation of the essence and emptiness of the desert. According to the artist, it symbolizes a "connection between man and the universe", thus highlighting his vulnerability. The abandonment and loneliness of the human being who, in the modern Latin American landscape, is the victim of injustice and torture by the military dictatorship.

For the past 28 years the Mano del Desierto has been a tourist point of enormous interest, although there are no further attractions in the area. Unfortunately the sculpture, due to the absence of protections, has undergone vandalism over the years, such as graffiti or dents. For this reason, the Hand is cyclically restored, in an attempt to preserve its appearance and restore it to its original color, that color that allows it to blend in with the lunar scenario of the Atacama desert.


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  • L'Autore

    Pablo Scialino



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