Mano del Desierto: Unique Places Around the World

The ​Mano del Desierto sculpture in the Atacama Desert.
The ​Mano del Desierto sculpture in the Atacama Desert.

Mano del Desierto is a sculpture in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Designed by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal, its name translates from Spanish into "hand of the desert". The closest city to the sculpture is Antofagasta, 75 km away from the site. The sculpture opened on March 28, 1992 and was funded by the local organization Corporación Pro Antofagasta, who still maintains the sculpture's wellbeing to this date.

5. Description

Mano del Desierto is a large sculpture constructed in the form of a human hand. The sculpture's artist, Mario Irarrázabal, is said to have taken inspiration from the human condition, exploring many somewhat dark themes including grief and loneliness. The sculpture's symbolism is twofold, as it represents both human suffering as well as the vast emptiness of the desert. The sculpture is built at an altitude of about 1100 meters (3608 feet) above sea level. Its base is made of iron and concrete, and it is erected to be about 11 meters (36 feet) tall.

4. Tourism

Mano del Desierto is a popular attraction for tourists traveling on Route 5 of the Pan-American Highway. It is highly visible from the highway and has become a popular photo opportunity in the modern age of social media.

3. Uniqueness

As mentioned above, Mano del Desierto's protrusion from the natural desert is striking for those who pass it by as there is nothing else for miles. However, a good distance away sits the counterpart to Mano del Desierto. On a beach in Punta del Este, Uruguay, there exists another hand sculpture designed by Irarrázabal. It is a right hand, unlike Mano del Desierto, which is a left hand. The sculpture in Uruguay is simply called La Mano.

2. Habitat

The Atacama Desert is the driest on the Earth, besides patches of polar land. Nonetheless, some desert reptiles are known to keep their home near the sculpture. The birds or butterflies that can be found in this desert do not live in it permanently because of the harsh conditions.

1. Threats

Despite a campaign run by the Corporación Pro Antofagasta that attempts to deter visitors from touching this piece of art, the sculpture is continually being tempered with. As it is located in a remote location in the desert far away from technology and towns, La Mano has been an easy target of graffiti. Even the signs that have been placed to bar individuals from touching the sculpture are sometimes destroyed. However, the sculpture undergoes cleansing biannually in order to keep its identity intact. This process is called hand washing.


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