“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 centuries, Texas was at the nexus of U.S. historical developments such as annexation efforts, conflict between U.S. and Mexico, and the development of Anglo-American cotton plantations. 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 movement 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 muckraking journalism tradition about segregation, lynching, women’s and children’s rights, and exposed other injustices endured by Mexican Texans, or Tejanos, under Juan Crow or Jaime Crow laws 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 youth, and provided food, clothing, and school supplies to children.
In 1914, during the Mexican Revolution, Idar and her friend Leonor Villegas de Magnón, joined a nursing unit, La Cruz Blanca (White Cross). 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 in various 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. 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. She handed the operations of Evolución to her brother Eduardo, when she and her husband moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1921. There, Idar worked as a translator, an English teacher, and a 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 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.
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.
IN HISTORY - 1823
Texas Rangers were founded
IN HISTORY - 1846
U.S.-Mexican War began
Jovita Idar was born
Idar moved to Los Ojuelos, Texas to teach
Idar became a reporter for her family’s Spanish newspaper, La Crónica
IN HISTORY - 1910
September 14-22, 1911
Primer Congreso Mexicanista (First Mexicanist Congress)
Nicasio Idar died and La Crónica ceased operations
Idar joined Spanish-language newspaper El Progreso
Idar married Bartolo Juárez
IN HISTORY - 1924
Immigration Act and Border Patrol is established
IN HISTORY - 1927
Confederación de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas was created
IN HISTORY - 1929
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Idar died at age 60
IN HISTORY - 1962
César Chávez and Dolores Huerta organized the National Farm Workers Association
IN HISTORY - 1965
Immigration and Nationality Act
IN HISTORY - 1986
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
IN HISTORY - 2017
Latina women in journalism