Transnational Advocate: Jovita Idar and the Quest to Redeem La Raza

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM
Virginia Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Gabriela Gonzalez, University of Texas at San Antonio
The economic modernization of the American Southwest and Mexico had major implications for la raza, the Mexican-origin peoples of North America. Middle-class Tejanos and mexicanos living on the border between the United States and Mexico developed a complex relationship with modernity, embracing its potential opportunities and message of progress while dealing with its less savory aspects such as the proletarianization of Mexicans and the complex racial caste system used to justify their exploitation. What roles did middle-class activist Jovita Idar play and what approaches did she take to address the greatest challenges facing la raza?

Jovita Idar was born in Laredo, Texas in 1885. She became a muckraking journalist to address the challenges Mexicans faced, participated in The First Mexicanist Congress, founded The League of Mexican Women, and worked with The White Cross, a medical brigade associated the Mexican Revolution.

This paper examines Idar’s ideological influences and activism during the early twentieth century; especially her work in Texas while also analyzing her participation in the Mexican Revolution, arguing that she was a transnational advocate for la raza. Idar’s activism involved strategies of benevolence and reform. An ethic of social and cultural redemption, informed by both her Methodist and Mexican liberal beliefs, lay at the root of her advocacy work and informed her human rights and social justice sensibilities. Redemption was coupled with a maternal Christian authority that reserved for women a special mandate to pass on cultural traditions.

There are both radical and conservative implications to Jovita Idar’s gendered class political approach, for the same ethic of redemption that inspired her to challenge racial discrimination also informed her mission of culturally “redeeming” the workingclass masses into a bourgeoisie ideal of respectability and progress.

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