On May 13, 1846, a dispute broke out between the United States and Mexico when the U.S. wanted to annex Texas from Mexico and spread democracy over the continent. Two years later (May 26, 1848), both sides ratified the peace treaty that ended the U.S. – Mexico War and the U.S. acquired Texas, along with California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. These states’ independence from Mexico cut their territorial size by half.
Although Mexico relinquished all claims for those states to the United States, Mexican American inhabitants were worn down throughout the years by constant indignities against their race. As a teacher, writer, editor and activist, Jovita Idar preserved Mexican culture in South Texas and encouraged women to pursue an education and push for equal rights.
Jovita Idar was born on September 7, 1885, in Laredo, Texas, 40-years after Texas became a state. She was the second of eight children of Jovita and Nicasio Idar. She grew up in an educated middle-class family with a strong sense of justice. Her father, an activist, worked as an editor and publisher of a local Spanish new paper, La Crónica.
After attending Methodist schools, in 1903, Idar went on to teach young children in Los Ojuelos, a town in southeast Texas. The schools they were sent to had inadequate resources and were underfunded. Speaking Spanish was discouraged in schools and the conditions were worse. After she learned of lynchings of Mexican American men, she decided she could have more impact by focusing on activism and writing, joining her brother and father at La Crónica.
Idar would write about her views of justice to empower and educate both sides of the border and help uplift Mexican communities. She wrote, ““We work for the progress and industrial, moral, and intellectual development of the Mexican inhabitants of Texas.”
Idar was also a suffragist and wrote about equal rights for women. She advocated women to educate themselves and seek independence from men. She continued her fights towards these inequalities and urged Texas women to “proudly raise your chins and face the fight” since that same year, California granted women the right to vote.
Despite her immeasurable contributions, Idar’s activism reminds us of the progress this Nation owes to Hispanic communities. According to a report in 2017 from Radio Television Digital News Association, Latinas are 2.4% of U.S. newspaper newsrooms and 4.2% of U.S. radio newsrooms.
Idar’s commitment to the civil rights only deepened during her activism and living with Mexican families in poor conditions. She says ““We want our work to be significant contributing to the formation of character and the cultivation of the minds of the future generations.”
Idar was 60 when she passed away on June 15, 1946. As her legacy continues, she inspires and helps the next generation of young journalists to make change and bring dignity to the millions of Hispanic communities in the Nation.