Though Punta del Este had been attracting tourists for over a century, when Paez Vilaro began building first a retreat and then a studio here in 1958, the peninsula was a far different place, not at all the magnet for Argentines and others who make it the primary destination of their Uruguay tours today. Located just eighty-seven miles from the capital, Punta del Este was worlds away, a place with neither phones nor paved roads, but with the stunning sea views that now attract throngs who travel to Uruguay. Isolated from the bustle of urban life, Paez Vilaro could paint here in peace. It remained an oasis of solitude for a decade before the boom began. He kept adding bedrooms, first for friends, until eventually a seventy-two room hotel emerged with swimming pools and restaurant, offering unique lodgings for overnight visitors on Uruguay tours. A small museum here showcases the artist’s works.
Punta del Este attracts the glamour set, so over the years, many famous people have spent the night at Casapueblo but of course so have many un-famous people. Casapueblo is a year-round attraction for those who travel to Uruguay, sunbathers in summer and whale watchers in the winter months.
Paez Vilaro is best known for his murals that adorn walls on three continents. His work may be seen in Washington DC at the headquarters of the Organization of American States. Here his massive “Roots of Peace,” a brightly colored abstract mural, painted in 1960 and refurbished in 2004, stretches some 530 feet, placed in a location that connects the buildings of the complex.
As it is with many iconic buildings, Casaspueblo’s design is not everyone’s cup of tea, and many visitors to Punta del Este consider the rooms too pricey for their Uruguay tours budget. About one thing, all who travel to Uruguay here agree: There is no more memorable spot for dinner and or cocktails on the terrace of Casapueblo looking out to sea at sunset.
Southern Explorations offers full Uruguay tours that visit the prime attractions of the country including Punta del Este and a stay in the capital. We also offer special interest tour extensions for those who wish to taste wine, learn about Uruguay’s history and culture, or just hit the beach.
Variously called Los Dedos, La Mano (the hand), and Monumento al Ahogado (Monument to the Drowned) as the artist named his sculpture, it is a popular sight for visitors on Uruguay tours. All four fingers and a bit of thumb rise from the sand some ten feet in the air as though belonging to a colossal giant who somehow became buried by mountains of sand, almost to his fingertips. The fingers aren’t waving; they are warning. Swimmers beware. Oft-photographed by those who travel to Uruguay, this is public art for more than art’s sake.
Visitors on Chile tours north of Santiago may see another of Irarrazabal’s sculptures. Ten years after completing his work at Punta del Este, Irarrazabal created a public piece, thirty-six feet tall, in his native land. Mano de Desierto (Hand of the Desert) is found in equally as unexpected a location as the Punta del Este sculpture, the sand of the Atacama Desert, fifty miles south of Antofagasta. He has also installed hand sculptures in Spain and Italy. Each is unique.