Cut Stones and Crossroads: A Journey in Peru


241 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-14-100026-0
DDC 918.504'633




Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish at Queen’s University.


The English-born but long-time Ontario resident Ronald Wright has gained
an international reputation for such works as Time Among the Maya
(travel) and A Scientific Romance (novel). Cut Stones and Crossroads,
originally published in 1984, is now reprinted with an important
afterword that sketches the history of Peru over the last few decades,
including the rise of the Shining Path guerrilleros and the election and
overthrow of President Fujimori. The volume is a mixture of history and
anthropology, social customs, religion, music, and authorial commentary
on the places he stayed and people he met (especially the indigenous and
mestizo people).

From the squalor of the once-proud capital Lima, to the ruins of Machu
Picchu, to the Inca capital of Cuzco, the author shares his knowledge
and his experiences. This is travel literature of the first order,
personal, informative, interesting, and entertaining. From flea-infested
motels, broken-down trucks, primitive trains, and overcrowded buses,
Wright provides the political/cultural information necessary to
understand the various government (marxist-socialist, right-wing
dictatorships), the everpresent racism, and the plight of the exploited
and marginalized Indians. He traces the history of the Incas to their
mythical origins in Lake Titicaca—a long way from the poverty in which
he finds the Indian now.

The book includes a chronology, a note on the pronunciation of the
difficult Runasimi language, a glossary, a bibliography, plus numerous
maps, illustrations, and photographs. The author knows well the
published works in the field and is not afraid to quote (or criticize)
his sources. His familiarity with the language and the literature of
both the conquerors and the colonized people makes for a much more
objective analysis than is usually found in comparable studies in the

This fascinating journal-cum-history can only reinforce Wright’s
well-deserved reputation as a writer who captures not only the culture
and the politics of Peru, but also the spirit of its people.


Wright, Ronald., “Cut Stones and Crossroads: A Journey in Peru,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,