CUT STONES AND CROSSROADS: A Journey in the Two Worlds of Peru by Ronald Wright

CUT STONES AND CROSSROADS: A Journey in the Two Worlds of Peru

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Peru, unlike Mexico, is still a nation divided."" Everything Indian is bad, base--the very term is taboo, natives deny speaking the language--while the Inca-and-earlier past is omnipresent. These are the travel notations, at once random and penetrating, of a British-trained, Canadian-based archaeologist (U. of Calgary) who's been in these Andean parts before and speaks both languages, Spanish and Runasimi. ""There is scarcely a neuter word in Spanish,"" Wright notes, ""even the inanimate world is divided into male and female."" In Runasimi, ""he, she, and it are expressed by the single word poy."" Other comparisons crop up. ""The archaeology of the Old World has been classified by members of our technological culture into periods defined by technology: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and so on. In the Americas. . . man progressed without much interest in metals and gadgetry."" Wright is viewing a Peruvian temple, of stone set in mortar--built by a people who had not invented pottery. He is mindful of being British: ""Education (in Spanish, of course) converts the successful Runa into a mestizo. . . coopted and isolated as surely as the Oxford graduate with working-class origins."" But Wright is not a scold--or obsessed. Along with the comments on cultural identity and land reform, there is the everyday tatty and garish, the traveler's discomforts and monotonous food, the encounters that Wright savors without milking them for meaning, the descriptions that exist only for their plenitude. Meanwhile one pieces together the ancient, the colonial, and the recent past--juxtaposed with the casual, vivid present.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1984
Publisher: Viking