Sep 13, 2023 - News

San Antonio events to honor Jovita Idar's legacy

Photo illustration collage of Jovita Idar and the quarter.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photos: UTSA Libraries Special Collections, courtesy of the U.S. Mint

This week, San Antonio will be the host city for a series of public events celebrating the August release of a commemorative quarter honoring Jovita Idar, a South Texas activist in the 1900s.

Why it matters: The release of the quarter and the events celebrating it signal a broader rediscovery of often overlooked Latinos in U.S. history.

Context: Idar was a journalist, teacher and activist who made advocating for the rights of women and Mexican Americans her life's work.

  • The ceremonial quarter marking her contributions was released as part of the American Women Quarters Program.
  • Idar's work started in Laredo, but her mission extended beyond her hometown.
  • She formed El Primer Congreso Mexicanista (First Mexican Congress) and La Liga Femenil Mexicanista (The League of Mexican Women) to advocate for education, suffrage and economic equality.
  • She eventually moved to San Antonio, where she created a free kindergarten and was an interpreter at a hospital here before her death in 1946.

What's happening: The University of Texas at San Antonio will host a roundtable at 5:30pm Thursday, with a celebration to follow.

  • The events will take place at the downtown campus and will be livestreamed.

The Mexican American Civil Rights Institute, U.S. Mint and Smithsonian Institution will host a series of events this weekend.

  • A mural honoring Idar at 600 N. Frio will be unveiled at 11am Friday.
  • A symposium with speakers from the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum, U.S. Mint representatives and members of the Idar family is set for 8am to 4:30pm Saturday at the Central Library.
  • A family day at Market Square with live performances will round out the programming from noon to 4pm Sunday.

Between the lines: Idar is one of several Latino figures who are being honored after years of being sidelined or forgotten in history lessons, film and mainstream media, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro from San Antonio tells Axios. He will speak at the symposium.

What they're saying: Castro thinks Latinos, especially younger people, are curious to learn how figures like Idar and Emma Tenayuca — a San Antonio labor leader —shaped American history, amid a push for inclusion in image-defining industries. He hopes the events will inspire people to seek out more stories of Latino leaders.

  • "While there's a lot of work left to be done, we're starting to see more representation, and I think that's helping Latinos see how big of an impact we really have in this country."
  • "If there's one thing young Latinas can take away from (Idar's) story, it's that your background is exactly what makes you powerful," he says.

Tey Marianna Nunn, director of the Smithsonian's American Women's History Initiative, was a consulting curator in the quarter selection process. She tells Axios that adding more historical Latinos to the conversation expands representation.

  • "With Jovita Idar's story shared on a national stage, Tejanas become more visible and recognized in history," she says.

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