Blue Review All Access: An interview with Millikin Professor, Dr. Eduardo Cabrera
Dr. Eduardo Cabrera, chair of the Department of Modern Languages at Millikin University, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But he didn't immigrate to the United States in search of economic opportunities.
He came for love.
Cabrera had accepted an offer from a friend to spend a year teaching in El Salvador. He was involved in local theater and television programming, when he met and hired a Salvadoran actress. They fell in love, and eventually moved to Los Angeles. "We were lucky to end up in California, a very progressive state. We were met with openness and opportunities," he recalls.
In their neighborhood in L.A., the young couple developed a Spanish theater school. There they began their family and had three children. Boasts Cabrera, "We inspired them to love art."
In California, Cabrera also took the opportunity to expand his studies and completed a Ph.D. in Spanish with a specialization in Latin American Literature and Theater. The experience opened him to the American academic world, and soon he received a job offer from a university in Kentucky. The entire family moved to the Midwest. "It was a very resounding change," says the professor. "Kentucky is a conservative state, with very few Latinos."
Following his acceptance to another university in Texas, Cabrera moved his family again, only to find similar mindsets and cultural dynamics. "We found Texas was also a conservative place for our family. For the first time I felt like a foreigner," he said.
Eventually, Cabrera applied to be the chair of the Department of Modern Languages at Millikin University. "For me and my family, one of the appealing characteristics of Millikin was the quality and prestige of its music program. And we were thrilled at the chance to move to Illinois, such a progressive state."
Today, Cabrera and his wife live in Decatur, Ill., where he spends his time teaching Spanish and Latin American Literature and Culture. He has published a number of articles about literature, theatre, culture and politics. He is also the author of the books "Teatro Argentino: The Theater Direction in Buenos Aires" and "Theater Brief for the Class and the Stage," which are being used in high schools and universities across the country.
One of the things that Cabrera is most proud of is his contribution to a radio program at Millikin University, where he disseminates topics on Latino culture, from Latin American and Spanish politics, to topics of interest for the entire Hispanic community, like immigration.
In his latest book, "Nine Tales of Immigrants in the United States," Cabrera draws inspiration from his personal experience as a Latino immigrant. One of his stories, for example, features an immigrant who must move for work from California to Kentucky. "In my stories I explore how daily life looks so different across states in our country," said Cabrera, recalling the cultural shock that his family had when they moved to the Midwest for the first time. "After living in California where one feels welcome, to moving to more conservative climates, many of us endured discrimination for the first time," he said.
"The issue of immigration continues to be a very important source of inspiration in my career," says Cabrera.
Additionally, Cabrera was honored at the 2018 International Latino Book Awards for "Nine Tales of Immigrants in the United States," winning first place in the category of Best Latino Focused Fiction Book.
Apart from writing, what Cabrera loves most is his job as a professor at Millikin University. "We do not teach only Spanish language, but a whole culture," he says. "I value the connection with very enthusiastic Millikin students who love to learn about the cultures of Latin America, Spain and U.S. Latinos. The fact that my students develop critical thinking skills, become familiar with global issues, and get better equipped to enter the job market, makes me very happy."
When asked what he looks most forward to, Cabrera replied, "I have great belief in the next generation of leaders; I have great hope in Young Americans."