JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Hispanic Heritage Month pays tribute to generations of Hispanic Americans who made notable contributions, enriching the nation while adding diversity and inclusion to the Air Force.
This is especially true for Mr. Daniel Lopez, Sixteenth Air Force of the Department of the Air Force Assessment and Authorization Branch. Lopez’s great-great aunt Jovita Idar influenced the nation as a diversity and inclusion pioneer.
Idar devoted her life to fighting against discrimination as a Mexican-American journalist, activist, teacher, and nurse while creating a better future for Mexican Americans.
She used her writing to effect change while working for her parent’s newspaper, La Cronica, in Loredo, Texas, during the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution. She served as a teacher but concentrated on journalism after she could not improve her students’ poor conditions. Her writing revealed segregation, lynching and other unfairness suffered by Mexicans in Texas.
Idar and her family established the Congreso Mexicanista in 1911, an organization focused on racism, women’s rights, and protecting the livelihood of Mexicans. Women voiced their concerns during these meetings, eventually creating The League of Mexican Women. As the first president of this group, Idar focused on providing education for poor children.
In 1913 she journeyed with Mexican revolutionary forces as a nurse, while also writing an editorial for the newspaper El Progresso, protesting U.S. troops on the border. She stood in the doorway of the printing press stopping Texas Rangers from destroying it. They eventually succeeded, causing her to return as a writer for La Cronica.
Later Idar and her husband moved to San Antonio establishing a free kindergarten. Idar died in 1946.
“Our family’s connection to Idar is strong and when my grandmother was in her 80s, I took her to the Benson Latin American Library at the University of Texas, in Austin, and we found and viewed the archived copies of the newspaper La Cronica,” he said. “One of the most amazing parts is my grandmother lived long enough to tell these stories to my daughters and nieces.”
A young Lopez first learned about Idar while sitting at his grandmother’s kitchen table. As he matured, he understood how her actions changed society.
“It is always important to remember the world we live in today exists because ordinary people like Jovita Idar became agents of change to move beyond the status quo and say things like, ‘all children should be educated, it is ok to speak two languages, and women should be able to vote,’” said Lopez. “We must remember there was a time when these statements were highly controversial but thanks to people like her, today they are common sense.”
Lopez and his family are proud of Idar’s latest recognition.
“Our family was excited when honored [with a display showcasing Idar’s accomplishments] in the Texas Women’s Museum and when she adorned the cover of the 7th Grade Texas History book used in public schools,” said Lopez.
The U.S. Mint also pressed Idar’s likeness on a coin for the 2023 American Women Quarters Program series. The coin’s inscriptions represent some of her greatest accomplishments and symbolize America’s diversity and culture of inclusion.
“Jovita Idar's legacy lives on through her family and recognition like the U.S. Mint's American Women Quarters Program, demonstrating that one person's efforts can have a lasting impact on future generations,” said Master Sgt. Bryan Montgomery, Sixteenth Air Force Diversity and Inclusion chief officer. “It serves as a reminder that the fight for civil rights and social justice is an ongoing struggle, and individuals like Jovita Idar have paved the way for future generations to continue working toward a more equitable society. Her story inspires efforts to promote social justice, inclusion, and diversity.”
The Air Force defines diversity and inclusion as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences, and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force Mission.
“Diversity and inclusion are important to the Sixteenth Air Force and the military in general for one simple reason, it gives a significant strategic advantage over our adversaries,” said Lopez. “Especially in the Intelligence community where competencies in language and cultural understanding are so important, and diverse talent pools make meeting the mission easier and faster.”
The Air Force and the nation are enriched by diversity pioneers like Idar, who remind people that everyone should be free to make their fullest contributions to the group's success.
(Editors note: Historical information referenced in this article was taken from Women In Texas History.org.)