San Antonio resident becomes first Tejana featured on U.S. Currency

Jovita Idar was an activist who fought for Mexican Americans during the time of segregation

Jovita Idar was an activist who fought for Mexican Americans during the time of segregation. Decades later, she’s set to be the first Tejana to be featured on U.S. Currency.

She was born in Laredo in 1885 and spent the second half of her life on San Antonio’s West Side.

Daniel Lopez is Jovita Idar’s descendant.

“It’s not every day you get to be related to somebody who’s on American currency,” Lopez said. “These are stories we grew up with. We didn’t learn about Jovita in school or in articles. We heard about her growing up in our family.”

Lopez is hoping more people will learn about Idar’s legacy now that the U.S. Mint and the Smithsonian made her part of the American Women’s Quarter Program, making her the first Tejana featured on U.S. Currency.

She was a journalist, activist and suffragist that advocated for the rights of Mexican Americans.

“She talked about everything -- the lynchings, the discrimination that was going on, the school segregation, the just the unfairness of the social structure of that time period. Very courageous for the time,” Historian Gabriela Gonzalez said.

In the early 1900s, San Antonio was experiencing the tuberculosis endemic and the city’s West Side wasn’t part of the city’s sanitation system, which allowed diseases there to spread easier.

“She worked at the Robert B. Green Hospital, which was the charity Hospital on the West Side. They had a lot of tuberculosis patients there. So she was a translator and she also taught classes and sanitation to try to help people stay healthy in those environments,” Sarah Gould, with the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute, said.

Idar wrote a newsletter about why women should vote and become educated.

“She said her famous quote is, ‘When you educate a woman, you educate a family,’” Gould said.

Lopez now hopes more people will dig into their own family history.

“Just start asking questions because you might find a Jovita throughout history,” Lopez said.

On Sunday, there will be a celebration for Jovita Idar at Market Square from noon to 4 p.m..

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