Idar Family Bible

Faith inspires action against injustice

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by Jenny Cobb, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

The borderlands between Texas and Mexico have been home to diverse populations for generations. While the existing Tejano and Anglo populations maintained a working political system for more than six decades following the U.S.-Mexican War of 1848, their relationship was threatened by rapid changes brought by the railroad at the turn of the 20th century. The growing Anglo population became the dominant economic leaders in the region, using the railroad to tightly link the border’s economy to the rest of the United States. 

An atmosphere of mistrust and uncertainty followed that led to discriminatory stereotyping. Many established Tejanos saw their rights disregarded by a poll tax and "whites‑only" primaries, and were segregated in public places. Yet a number of Tejanos were able to remain politically and economically active. They used their standing in their communities to speak out against injustice and worked to improve job opportunities and conditions.

This Bible represents a record of the Idar family, a Mexican American family from Laredo and later San Antonio, Texas. For the Idar family, there existed a strong bond between their Roman Catholic faith, action against injustice, and equality for their communities.

Jovita Idar, frustrated with poor conditions in the school where she was teaching, joined the staff of her father Nicasio’s weekly newspaper La Crónica in 1910, reporting on issues affecting Mexican Americans. She later moved to the paper El Progreso, where her editorials protesting policies of the U.S. government caused Texas Rangers to close down the paper. Idar returned to La Crónica, which she continued to serve as a voice against poverty, lynchings, and other forms of racism.

Prompted by the abuse suffered by Tejanos in the borderlands, journalist Clemente Idar organized a meeting of El Primer Congreso Mexicanista (The First Mexican Congress) in Laredo in 1911, one of the earliest efforts to organize Mexican Americans in defense of civil and social rights. The Congreso established the Gran Liga Mexicanista de Beneficencia y Protección (Great Mexican League for Benefit and Protection) and the Liga Femenil Mexicanista (League of Mexican Women) to promote cultural and moral values among Texas Mexicans, provide protection from abuse by public authorities, and combat segregation of Texas Mexican students.

The Idar Family Bible and approximately 70 additional artifacts are part of a new exhibition, Life and Death on the Border 1910–1920, on view on the Museum's third floor until April 2016.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Idar Family Bible Artifact from Laredo, Texas
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