Women recognize their rights, proudly raise their chins, and face the struggle. The times of humiliation have passed, women are no longer men’s servants but their equals, their partners.
– Jovita Idar

Jovita Idar’s Story

Jovita Idar was born on September 7, 1885, in Laredo Texas, to parents of Mexican descent. During the 19th and 20th century Texas was at the nexus of U.S. historical developments such as annexation efforts, conflict between U.S.-Mexico border, and the development of Anglo cotton plantations specifically since the state allowed slave-owning. As a Mexican American raised on the border between Mexico and the U.S., Idar continuously confronted issues of culture, identity, and discrimination. Her father, Nicasio Idar, was a well known community leader, who played a significant role in shaping her views and involvement in the Mexican civil rights from a young age. 

Idar attended Methodist schools, and in 1903 earned her teaching certificate from Laredo Seminary. Idar then taught in the small town of Los Ojuelos, where she was  dismayed by the lack of resources and poor classroom conditions. She was also concerned with the assimilationist curriculum which deprived Mexican school children of an education about their history and heritage. Believing that through journalism she could enact social change, Idar resigned, and returned to Laredo to work with her brothers at La Crónica, her father’s Spanish-language newspaper. 

As a reporter, Idar wrote in the muckwracking tradition about segregation, lynching, women’s and children’s rights, and exposed other injustices endured by Mexican Texans, or Tejanos, in the early 20th century. Idar sometimes wrote under two pseudonyms, A. V. Negra, meaning Black Bird, or Astrea, the Greek goddess of justice. Following the brutal lynching of Antonio Gómez, a 14-year old Mexican American boy in Thorndale Texas, Idar and her family organized El Primer Congreso Mexicanista (First Mexicanist Congress) in 1911, a convention that kickstarted the modern Mexican American civil rights movement. Following the Congress, Idar helped create La Liga Femenil Mexicanista (League of Mexican Women), one of the first known Latina feminist organizations, and served as its first president. The organization focused on women’s suffrage, quality and free education for Tejano children, and provided food, clothing, and school supplies to children. 

In 1914, during the Mexican Revolution, Idar and her friend Leonor Villegas de Magnón, joined the nursing unit, La Cruz Blanca (White Cross). The Mexican Revolution began after middle class Mexican workers revolted against the dictator Porfirio Díaz Mori, who had ruled for 34 years. When fighting erupted in Nuevo Laredo, Idar and Magnón would smuggle wounded soldiers  across the border into Laredo for medical assistance. They also traveled across northern Mexico with the revolutionary troops and established medical brigades throughout different communities. After her service in the White Cross, Idar returned to journalism, and wrote for several newspapers, including El Progreso. It was at El Progreso’s printing shop, where she was confronted by the Texas Rangers, who were sent to destroy the press after publication of an editorial criticizing Woodrow Wilson’s administration for military intervention at Veracruz, Mexico in opposition to the military regime of General Victoriano Huerta. When the Texas Rangers arrived, they found Jovita Idar blocking the entrance. The rangers left, but they returned the next morning and destroyed everything.    

In 1916, Idar started her own newspaper, Evolución, and a year later married Bartolo Juárez. In 1921 she handed the operations of Evolución to her brother Eduardo, when she and her husband moved to San Antonio, Texas. There, Idar worked as a translator and an English teacher and tutor for elementary school students. She also worked with immigrant communities,  teaching them to read and write, and helping undocumented workers obtain naturalization papers after the U.S. Border Patrol was created in 1924. Jovita Idar died in 1946 at age 60. A teacher, journalist, nurse, and activist, Idar devoted her life to encouraging women’s involvement in public policy, and working for quality education for Mexican American children, and equal rights for Mexican Americans. 

Featured in the Film

Gabriela González

Gabriela González is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches courses on the US-Mexican borderlands, Latina/o history, women’s history and historical methods. She is the author of Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights (Oxford University Press, 2018). The book received the TSHA Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas History, the Liz Carpenter Award for Best Book on the History of Women, the Jim Parish Award for Documentation and Publication of Local and Regional History, the Cleotilde P. Garcia Tejano Book Prize Award, the NACCS—Tejas Foco Nonfiction Book Award, and was a finalist for the Weber-Clements Book Prize for Best Book on Southwestern America. González has written articles on transborder activists including Carolina Munguía, Emma Tenayuca, and Jovita Idar.

Maria Hinojosa

In 2010, journalist Maria Hinojosa created Futuro Media, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Harlem, NY with the mission to create multimedia content for and about the new American mainstream in the service of empowering people to navigate the complexities of an increasingly diverse and connected world. As the anchor and executive producer of the Peabody Award-winning show Latino USA, distributed by NPR, as well as co-host of the political podcast In The Thick, and former anchor of multiple television programs on CNN and PBS, Hinojosa has won numerous awards over the course of her 30-year career. Hinojosa is a contributor to the award-winning news program CBS Sunday Morning, a frequent guest on MSNBC, and the inaugural Journalist-in-Residence at Barnard College where she teaches courses about the intersections of nonfiction, personal memoir, and journalism. 

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Sources

Primary Sources

Federico Idar and Idar Family Papers, 1879-1938, Federico Idar, Benson Latin American Collection: University of Texas at Austin. https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utlac/00199/lac-00199.html.

Clemente N. Idar Papers, 1875-1938 (bulk 1905-1934), Clemente N. Idar, Benson Latin American Collection: University of Texas at Austin. https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utlac/00197/lac-00197.html.

Audio Interview with Mr. Aquilino Idar I (Ike) and Guadalupe R. Idar, The Institute of Texan Culture, October 26, 1984. https://digital.utsa.edu/digital/collection/p15125coll4/id/1304/

La Crónica (Laredo, Tx.), 1909-???, Library of Congress Archive, https://www.loc.gov/item/sn86089580/.

Evolución, (Laredo, Tx.), 1916-???, Library of Congress Archive https://www.loc.gov/item/sn86089570/

El Progreso, (Laredo, Tx.), Library of Congress, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/2001240433/

The Rebel (La Rebelde), by Leonor Villegas de Magnón, https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Rebel.html?id=i2kMAAAAYAAJ

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Online Sources

Idar, Jovita, Nancy Baker Jones, Texas State Historical Association, June 15, 2010. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fid03

This Fearless Mexican American Reporter Fought Racism and Sexism to Keep Power in Check, Erin Blakemore, Medium, February 23, 2018. https://timeline.com/jovita-idar-mexican-american-reporter-fought-racism-and-sexism-8b6387d5bb7a.

1900s Journalist and Educator Jovita Idar Championed Rights of Mexican Americans, Carmina Danini, San Antonio Express News, December 25, 2017. https://www.expressnews.com/sa300/article/1900s-journalist-and-educator-Jovita-Idar-12454358.php.

Jovita Idar (1885-1946), Kerri Lee Alexander, National Women’s History Museum, 2019, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/jovita-idar.

Life Story: Jovita Idar Juárez (1885–1946), New York Historical Society. https://wams.nyhistory.org/modernizing-america/xenophobia-and-racism/jovita-idar-juarez/#teaching.

La Cronica, Texas State Historical Association. Author: Teresa Palomo Acosta. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eel06.

Jovita Idar: Journalism Pioneer, Marlena Fitzpatrick, Latino Rebels: a Futuro Media Group Property, March 4, 2016, https://www.latinorebels.com/2016/03/04/latinahistorymonth-jovita-idar-journalism-pioneer/.

Lynch Mobs Killed Latinos Across the West. The Fight to Remember These Atrocities is Just Starting, The New York Times. Author: Simon Romero. March 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/us/porvenir-massacre-texas-mexicans.html

Nicasio Idar, Texas State Historical Association. Author: Teresa Palomo Acosta. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fid02

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