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ZonaZoo members celebrating the Wildcats and Hispanic Heritage Month

Robert Rodriguez energizes the crowd during the Friday's 'Bear Down Friday' pep rally.
Posted at 10:40 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 10:27:49-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — When Arizona Football celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month during the Wildcats’ home game against Northern Arizona Saturday night, some students will have two different kinds of spirit on display.

The ZonaZoo Crew runs UArizona’s official student section. They focus on creating an enthusiastic game day atmosphere at different Wildcats sporting events.

They also work with Main Gate Square to organize the weekly ‘Bear Down Friday’ pep rally on University Boulevard, just west of campus.

“The Events and Game Day Director, they kinda make the script, they get all the appearances, they work with Main Gate Square,” said Marissa Simental, a senior and ZonaZoo’s Executive Director.

Robert Rodriguez, a senior and ZonaZoo’s Game Day Operations Director, is also a DJ and emcee on the main stage at ‘Bear Down Friday.’

“What I love is going up there, showing everybody what it’s like to be a Wildcat,” he said. “That was always my thing: ‘Wear the ‘A’ with pride.”

ZonaZoo’s Marketing and Branding Director Max Mora encouraged new students to join the crew, saying, “this is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”

Simental, Rodriguez and Mora are Hispanic, as is fellow senior and ZonaZoo crew member Carolina Gomez Llanos. All four spoke to KGUN on Friday about this weekend’s game and the Hispanic Heritage recognition, with all saying that the school does a good job of promoting Hispanic culture.

“Kind of awesome, because as a Hispanic you get to be involved and feel appreciated by the school, so it’s really cool,” Gomez Llanos said.

“It’s good to know that we are diverse here, and every organization at the U of A prioritizes diversity and inclusion, so it is good to feel the support,” Simental added.

Mora shared messages about Hispanic Heritage on ZonaZoo’s social media, and says he appreciates the university creating cultural logos to celebrate diversity last year.

“Taking the time and doing that and kind of showing the students, like, ‘I’m Hispanic and we care about this stuff,’ I think it really sets a good precedent for our organization,” Mora said.

During the game, a traditional halftime celebration will return this year after being canceled last season due to the pandemic.

“We have one of the largest towns that do a lot of the mariachi and folklórico, so just seeing that, whenever they bring them out for halftime, makes me proud to be who I am. And it makes me proud to be in a town that celebrates that kind of heritage,” Rodriguez said.

The Wildcats and Lumberjacks kick off Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.