SBS Ambassador Zoe Montano is a junior at the University of Arizona majoring in Journalism, with an emphasis in broadcast journalism and a minor in public relations in the Department of Communication. She also works for the UArizona Foundation as a digital marketing assistant. In her Q&A, the native Tucsonan discusses her family, why she chose the University of Arizona, what she loves about the SBS Ambassador program, and how she is learning to define her Hispanic heritage.
Please share about your family and background.
My dad was born in Mammoth, a small mining town in Arizona. His family lived in southern Arizona when it was still considered Mexico. My mom was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, but her parents are from Sinaloa and Chihuahua. I still have family who live in Mexico, and I love whenever they visit — they bring the best tortillas and queso fresco.
My parents are first-generation college students. They both wanted to go further in their studies and did everything they could to make sure I and my siblings get those opportunities. They constantly push us to study harder, get more involved and be grateful for the gifts presented to us. I am also super close to my grandmothers. They played a crucial role in my early childhood and I look up to them both for character, humor, grace and intelligence.
Why did you choose the University of Arizona?
Having grown up in Tucson, I wanted to go anywhere that wasn’t close to home. It was not until I started going through the application process that I realized the University of Arizona had everything I wanted in a university. I wanted a school that was diverse, research-oriented, had many extracurricular opportunities and was large, but still had a close-knit community. Who knew everything I wanted was right in my backyard? From then on, it was an obvious choice. I am so happy I am here at UArizona; I would not trade it for the world!
Why did you decide to be an SBS Ambassador and what do you enjoy most about it?
I chose to be an SBS Ambassador because I love interacting with prospective students and their families. I am also a main campus tour guide and absolutely love it. The SBS Ambassador program allows me to meet incoming students who are interested in same program I am in.
I also love meeting other students who are part of SBS but not in my major. We truly have the most unique college. From political science to food studies, the college brings in a ton of brilliant students. I am so grateful I have the chance to meet them!
What are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about making someone’s day. Whether it is an act of kindness, making a joke or helping someone out with a project, I find it so rewarding knowing I made a positive impact on someone. Majoring in broadcast journalism has helped me tell other people’s stories through written word, video and multimedia platforms. I reported on everything from the “$25 by ‘25” movement, where United Campus Workers were petitioning for better pay and treatment, to the Sloth Encounter exhibit opening at Reid Park Zoo. Journalism serves a great purpose and I am fortunate to have professors and fellow classmates who constantly challenge and support me.
Hispanic heritage is incredibly diverse. Can you highlight some cultural traditions, art forms, or cuisine from your heritage that you think people should know more about or experience?
There are differences even between my mother and father. From the food they make, to the slang their families use and the way they look. Hispanic culture is special because we can be different, but we are always there for our family. I wish people knew more about Chicano culture. It offers a lot when it comes to food, art and fashion, and is constantly evolving generation after generation, even right here in Tucson.
I have always felt close to my heritage, but in the past, I have felt separated because I could not speak the language fluently. For a long time, I felt very insecure and humiliated by family members and teachers who would say, “You do not speak Spanish? But you are Mexican!”
Since being at UArizona, I have learned to embrace my unique relationship to my heritage. Even though I stumble over words and claim I can only understand Spanish and not speak it, I have come to the realization that my heritage is not confined by the words I speak, but the blood in my veins and the family that surrounds me. I love stuffing my face with frozen gansitos after a stressful day, making cascarones for family reunions and tearing up the dance floor to El Alfa with my friends. Hispanic culture is much more than the language — it is our community, our art, our food and our family.