About the Stories
The goal of the oral histories themselves is to record as much as possible about the lives of these individuals. While I asked many questions about my personal interest in their education, I attempted to gain a holistic concept of their lives. (For most of the interviewees, since they were children in the camps, school was much of their lives! However, others, such as the Wilcox couple, lived in the camps as adults, and thus their stories are different.)
These narratives help add clarity and tangibility to a world that has only recently begun being explored academically, yet is vital to understanding Venezuela and the Americas today. (After all, without the structures created by these camps that allowed them to survive and further the oil industry in the nation, Venezuela never would have developed the overdependence on the commodity that has led it to economic disaster with the post-2008 fall in crude prices.) However, due in large part to company and government policies both during and after oil’s expansion, many firsthand accounts have either been destroyed, lost, or rendered useless to US scholars thanks to inability to access them in Caracas or Maracaibo. The hope in assembling these voices while we still can is that their legacies can endure for future generations of scholars, who currently face a daunting shortage of resources.
For those who wish to grasp the broader structures of these camps and gain a more complete understanding of the world these people lived in, I highly recommend especially from Miguel Tinker Salas, particularly The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela. For work explicitly on oil camp school education in Venezuela and it’s impacts, you can find my early work on the matter here. The sooner it is rendered obsolete, the better.
As a note on my interviewing methodology:
Naturally, all interviewers have their biases. My goal was to reduce my impact as much as possible. I attempted to say as little as possible in our interviews, allowing my interviewees to take the stories where they wanted. However, to prevent biases, I also attempted to ask questions in the same realms to each interviewee. (Relatedly, I sometimes provide my interviewee verbal affirmatives to show them that I am still attentive and listening.) The reason I provide the recordings themselves along with the transcripts from the conversations is to promote transparency in the future use of this project.
Many times in my interviews, my interviewees and I use the word “American” where the more correct description is “US.” For me, this is an active attempt to use the phrasing that is utilized by my interviewees. In more formal scholarship, including my own, I explicitly emphasize using the “US” when discussing citizens of the United States.
Of course, I am infinitely grateful to all of the people who were willing to give me far too much time, whether it be on the phone, in person, or sending me email after email of their personal sources and connections. If you or someone you know has a story you believe belongs in this collection, please contact us.