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. 


The stories

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July 28, 2018

Name: Glenn and Carole Wilcox

Date: July 28, 2018

Circumstance: In person in Loxley, Alabama. 

Age at time of interview: 88 (Glenn) and 82 (Carole) years old. 

Details: When I began studying Venezuelan history, some of my friends joked that no topic seemed further removed...

July 28, 2018

Name: Susan McClurg Berman

Date: July 28, 2018

Circumstance: Phone Call. Ms. Berman was in her home in rural Northern California. I called from Foley, Alabama. 

Age During Call: 72 

Details: When she was eleven years old, Susan Berman moved from Orange, Texas to Maracaibo....

July 28, 2018

Name: Mario Lopez

Date: July 27, 2018

Circumstance: Phone call. Mr. Lopez called from his home in San Antonio, Venezuela (near Caracas.) I called from Daphne, Alabama. 

Age at Time of Interview: 67

Details: Thinking about my conversation with Mr. Lopez generates mixed...

July 26, 2018

Name: Steven Marzuola

Date: July 26, 2018

Circumstance: Phone call. Mr. Marzuola was in Houston, Texas. I called from Spanish Fort, Alabama. 

Details: Mr. Marzuola was one of the first people I talked to in this project. Luckily, he was also one of the people who helped m...

July 25, 2018

Name: Elizabeth Lutz

Date: July 25, 2018

Circumstance: Phone call. Ms. Lutz was at her home in Hillsborough, North Carolina. I called from Spanish Fort, Alabama. 

Age at time of call: 84 years old 

Recording: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kkA3aM6IpslbuuYzxYwvqP83Vp...

July 23, 2018

Editor's note: I arrived at the Ft. Worth Hilton on Wednesday afternoon, about 20 hours before the reunion actually began. At around 3:30, I first walked over to the concierge desk to ask whether a few guests I was supposed to be meeting on Wednesday had arrived yet. (...