Tinker Salas, Miguel. The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

Author:Hall, Michael R.
Position:Book review

Tinker Salas, Miguel. The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

Traditional studies of the Venezuelan oil industry during the twentieth century, while providing a focused analysis of the impact of the foreign-dominated oil industry on the nation's economy, have failed to address the cultural and social impact of the oil industry on Venezuela's people. According to historian Miguel Tinker Salas, traditional studies have failed to demonstrate how "the evolution of the foreign-controlled enterprises reshaped the lives of those employed by them and how oil influenced the social and political environment" (p. vii) of the nation as a whole. The Venezuelan oil industry, like other foreign-dominated economic activities in Latin America, unleashed significant cultural, social, and (frequently) racial change throughout Venezuela. Tinker Salas posits that the Venezuelan oil industry "remains the central component of the Venezuelan economy and has been a decisive factor in the evolution of social and class structures since its development in the early twentieth century" (p. 1).

Three foreign corporations--the Creole Petroleum corporation (a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Royal Dutch Shell, and Mene Grande (a subsidiary of Gulf Oil) dominated the Venezuelan oil industry during the twentieth century. Tinker Salas asserts that the campos petroleos [residential communities for the foreign and domestic oil workers established by the foreign companies] were "the most important stage for the profound economic, social, and cultural changes that Venezuelans experienced after the discovery of oil" (p. 4). The foreign oil companies established educational and recreational activities for the oil workers and their families. According to Tinker Salas, this amounted to "an unparalleled degree of social engineering" (p. 4). As such, the oil industry employees and the nation's emerging middle class "developed a vision of a modern Venezuelan nation rooted in the social and political values promoted by the industry" (p. 5).

Tinker Salas, a professor of history at Pomona College, conducted multi-archival research in preparation of the book under review. His interest in the topic, however, is personal as well as academic. Tinker Salas was born in one of Venezuela's campos petroleos. His father, an American from California, and his mother, a Venezuelan from the interior, provided him an education in the...

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