Xuyen Thi Pham

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History


NOAA's Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History documents the experience of people living in Gulf  of Mexico  oil-spill-affected fishing communities. The oral history data complements other social and economic data about the spill collected by NOAA and other governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Date of Interview

Vy Tran
Angel Truong Phan
Linda VanZandt

Principal Investigator

Mrs. Xuyen Pham is a Vietnamese-American oyster shucker and gardener living in New Orleans East, Louisiana. Pham was born in 1948 in a small village near Hai Phong, North Vietnam. Her father, Thoan Van Pham, was a fisherman. Mrs. Pham helped her mother, Xuy Thi Pham, dry fish and shrimp to make and sell nuoc mam sauce. Her father and grandfather fished on stilts and made a boat carved from bamboo. In 1954 her family, disguised as merchants, made it to Hai Phong, then escaped North Vietnam to the South upon hearing of the country’s division. Once in the South, they settled in Phuoc Tinh where they lived for twenty years.  After the fall of South Vietnam, Mrs. Pham escaped Vietnam by boat with her husband’s family and their two young children. After being picked up by an Australian freighter, then an American ship, they landed in the Philippines, then were transferred to Guam, and finally to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. After time in the camp, they were sponsored to Oklahoma, where they lived and worked for eight months before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana. Mrs. Pham’s husband, Joseph Mai, has worked at Schwegmann’s Grocery, and as an oyster shucker, shrimper, and fisherman. Mrs. Pham first worked at a crab processing plant, then moved to oyster shucking where she has found employment since 1977. Mrs. Pham enjoys nurturing her extensive garden and selling her produce at the Vietnamese Versailles Community farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. At the time of the interview, she was preparing to join other community gardeners in a cooperative, supported by Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, selling their produce to local New Orleans restaurants. Mrs. Pham and her husband have ten children, five boys and five girls.

Scope and Content Note:
She discusses life growing up in North Vietnam; fishing techniques in Vietnam; escape from North to South Vietnam; living through Communist war in North against French; separation from father during war; Haiphong escape; illiteracy in Vietnam; move in South to Phuoc Tinh (and witnessing end of war there in 1975); chaos after South's surrender to Communists; escape by fishing boat from South Vietnam; boarding U.S. ship then journey to Philippines and Guam; sorrow of leaving homeland; son's illness at refugee camp and decision to leave; time in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, and working on ranch in Oklahoma; reuniting with extended family; moving to New Orleans East (undeveloped); help from Baptist Church and Catholic Charities; various jobs in seafood industry (experiencing initial hostility due to competition); husband's work at Schwegmann's Grocery; career in oyster shucking; post-Katrina experience; husband's work shrimping, fishing, and oyster shucking; BP oil spill impact; filing claim and unknown future; gardening; advice for future family generations.

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