I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, where my dad worked for Standard Oil, known in those days as Creole and Esso. He went to Venezuela in 1937, when he was 24 years old, to escape Oklahoma and the depression. Initially, he worked as an accountant in an oil camp on the western edge of Lake Maracaibo, which in those days was pretty much a frontier town. When WWII broke out, he returned to the U.S. and enlisted. Home on leave in Tulsa, he met my mother on a blind date and they were married six months later. When the war was over, he returned to work for Creole and he and my mother settled in Caracas.
Caracas was an idyllic place to grow up. At 3,000 feet above sea level, located in a valley, there are just two seasons - the rainy season and the dry season, and the weather is perpetually spring. Until around 1963, thousands of Americans lived in Caracas. They weren't really expatriates - most of them worked for American companies - but they lived like expats. My sister and I attended both local and American schools during our years there, grew up bilingual, and experienced quite a bit of political turmoil over the years. The Venezuelan government was constantly in flux, with revolts and revolutions always just around the corner. Whereas kids in the U.S. have snow days, we had "revolution days," when school was cancelled because of bomb scares and the threats of revolt.
In 1963, the dictator, Perez Jimenez, was overthrown and fled the country with $13 million he embezzled. The situation became so politically unstable that Americans began leaving the country in droves. The American community went from 8,000 to about 800. My dad took early retirement from Creole and we moved to Florida. I sometimes suspect that I never quite got over that move. My love affair with South America continues, with Ecuador right up there at the top of the list of favorite places.
My husband, novelist Rob MacGregor, and I have been married 31 years and have a 25-year-old daughter who is pursuing her own dreams. The three of us travel to South America whenever the fares are seductive!