SPOKEN HISTORY

SPOKEN HISTORY

Spoken History

“People live within the pasts they construct and, to whatever degree, within the pasts that are constructed for them.  The relationship between memory as lived and history as documented is always a complex dialogue — each informing, and disinforming, the other.”-  Henry Greenspan

We cannot call the recorded stories here oral history in its purest form. Oral history is the preservation of original testimony “as told to” and without interpretation. However, even recorded oral history cannot be free of certain influences such as the setting where the testimony was gathered, the technology used to record and the agenda of the interviewer or organization gathering the history. Memory itself is unreliable for that matter. Something remembered one way – one day – will be remembered differently another. Besides – according to memoirist, Patricia Hampl, it’s not what we remember but why we remembered it that way. Herein lies the story – not in facts but in truth.

What we can call the stories here  are “interpreted” or “subjective” personal history. Indeed many of the writers note experiencing the process of recording the interviews  as a “setting free” their subjects’ stories. In this sense – the way spoken word sets free the voice from canonic rules of poetic expression – spoken histories set free personal, family and communal stories from the restrictions of academic limitations.

These interviews were gathered by writers interested in finding out more about family members or members of the community and asking questions like; How did my grandmother fall in love? or What was it like in the war?, among others. The interviews occurred during Black Friday – a counter to the growing impact of American consumerism on Puerto Rico’s families and communities.

National Day of Listening, Mayagüez 2011, is a collaborative oral history project with Storycorps of New York.

Writers received Storycorps guidelines and used whatever recording equipment they could acquire which ranged from pen and paper to cellular phones to actual audio/video equipment. Subjects were interviewed in their native language, Spanish. Some interviews are missing due to equipment failure. Some pen interviews were translated by the writers to English. All the interviews were minimally edited. Writers wrote short reflections on their experience.

 

Spoken History