By Ryan Lynch and Carla Alvarez
On Monday, August 14, the U.S. Mint released a quarter commemorating Mexican American journalist and activist Jovita Idar (b. Laredo, 1885–d. San Antonio, 1946) as part of its American Women Quarters program. In conjunction with this release, the Benson Latin American Collection recently published three issues of two newspapers that are associated with Idar. Together, these publications represent some of the earliest examples of Mexican American journalism.
The newly published items include two extremely rare issues of Evolución, a newspaper founded by Idar in 1916 and published until 1920. These issues document international and regional events such as the Mexican Revolution and World War I, as well as local topics such as containment of the flu outbreak in Nuevo Laredo and regional union organizing. There is also a single issue of El Progreso, a Laredo-based newspaper operated by the Idar family.
The Benson has received several requests for material related to Idar during the COVID shutdown and in recent months. In 2020, a cell phone snapshot of the October 26, 1918, issue of Evolución appeared in an episode about Jovita Idar on the PBS show Unladylike. Aware of the significance of these newspapers, Benson Special Collections staff sent them for conservation treatment and digitization as soon as possible.
El Progreso is at the heart of a story about Jovita Idar standing up to the Texas Rangers, who wanted to shut down her family’s paper. According to an oral history with descendant Aquilino Idar and his wife Guadalupe, when the Texas Rangers showed up at the El Progreso print shop, Jovita stood at the door and refused entry. The Rangers left but returned early the next morning and used hammers to destroy the press (oral history held by UT San Antonio Special Collections).
The two issues of Evolución recently received conservation treatment as part of the UT Austin Campus Conservation Initiative (CCI). The program, backed by Provost Sharon Wood, allows paper conservator Rachel Mochon to treat items from the Benson and other campus entities, including the Harry Ransom Center, the Briscoe Center for American History, and the Blanton Museum of Art.
Other Benson items that have received treatment include a sixteenth-century land claim produced by an Indigenous community in Mexico, one of the first dictionaries of an Indigenous language published in the Americas, and a scrapbook from a Brazilian mining operation.
- Issues of Evolución are part of the Clemente N. Idar Papers, https://txarchives.org/utlac/finding_aids/00197.xml
- El Progreso in the Library Catalog
- Jovita Idar clip from Unladylike, https://unladylike2020.com/profile/jovita-idar/
- El Progreso and Evolución front pages are both shown in the Unladylike episode
- Interview with Aquilino I. and Guadalupe Idar, 1984, at UT San Antonio, https://digital.utsa.edu/digital/collection/p15125coll4/id/1304