“Mexican children in Texas need an education. There is no other means to do it but ourselves, so that we are not devalued and humiliated by the strangers who surround us.”
Photo Credit: General Photograph Collection/UTSA Libraries Special Collections via NYT
Jovita Idár was a teacher, journalist, nurse, and civil rights activist. She was born in 1885 in Laredo, Texas and started writing for La Crónica, a Spanish-language newspaper published by her family and edited by her father. Idár had been exposed to racial injustice in the region at a very young age and consequently focused on activism in her writing. She was incensed by the ongoing racial discrimination of Mexican Americans in South Texas that was evident in the ubiquitous “No Negroes, Mexicans or dogs allowed” signs as well as inadequate schooling of Mexican American students. During her tenure as a writer and eventual editor of La Crónica, Idár’s articles chronicled the many racial injustices she witnessed during the early 20th century, which included the lynching and segregation of Mexican Americans. The Jim Crow laws (also referred to as the “Juan Crow” laws by some scholars) enforced racial segregation of Mexican Americans and limited their rights. Viewed as a local threat by the Texas Rangers, Idár single-handedly defended the newspaper headquarters when the rangers came to shut it down. She proved herself as a force to reckon with. In her lifelong pursuit of civil rights against her people, Idár organized the First Mexicanist Congress in 1911 tackling racism and lynching of Mexican Americans. She also helped create the first League of Mexican Women and served as its first president. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly towards establishing women’s rights and suffrage, bilingual education, and the end to racism and segregation.