“My grandmother represented four generations of activism in San Antonio.’"
— Ramón Vázquez y Sánchez, Jr., San Antonio Express News,
June 3, 2018
Olivia Sanchez Zamarripa (1920-2018)
TEXT - Teacher, journalist and political activist Jovita Idár praised women’s suffrage in her father’s weekly newspaper in Laredo, La Crónica (The Chronicle), where she connected the vote to long standing demands for Mexican American civil rights. “The times of humiliation have passed,” she announced,“Women are no longer slaves sold for a few coins. They are no longer men’s servants but their equals, their partners.” Idár was born in Laredo in 1885, one of eight children of Jovita and Nicasio Idár. She taught at a small school in southwestern Webb County, but then resigned and joined two of her brothers as writers for La Crónica, which featured stories on the struggles of Mexican-Americans, including educational and social discrimination, the loss of Mexican culture and the Spanish language, and lynchings of ethnic Mexicans. Her family organized El Primer Congreso Mexicanista, a conference to discuss the multiple grievances of ethnic Mexicans. Idar became the first president of a separate organization, La Liga Femenil Mexicanista. This organization provided food, clothing and education for poor children, and hosted literary and theatrical productions to raise money for the community. This league is one of the earliest known efforts of Mexican American women to unite for social and political causes.
In 1913, Idár began to travel with revolutionary forces in Mexico as a nurse. She returned to Laredo later that year and joined the staff of the newspaper El Progreso. When the paper published an editorial protesting President Woodrow Wilson's dispatch of United States troops to the border, Texas Rangers arrived to close them down. Idár stood in the doorway to keep them from entering. The Rangers returned the next day, sacked the offices and smashed the printing press. Nonetheless, Idár continued her writing and her activism.
While Idár is best known for her work in Laredo, she spent almost half of her life in San Antonio, where she continued to advocate for her community. In 1917, Idár married Bartolo Juárez. The couple moved to San Antonio in 1921, where she became active in the Democratic Party. Here she continued to advocate for equal rights for women. She established a free kindergarten, worked as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients at Robert B. Green hospital, and was an editor and writer for El Heraldo Cristiano, a publication of the Rio Grande Conference of the Methodist Church. She died in San Antonio in 1946.