UArizona Medical Student Effort to Distribute COVID-19 Awareness Posters in Spanish Gains Supporters Near and Far

May 13, 2020

Four University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson students, three of whom graduate this week, distribute posters in collaborative community effort.


TUCSON, Ariz. – It was a simple plan: Design a few posters to underscore the importance of social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks in public during the COVID-19 pandemic – but in Spanish, where such literature was scarce. And spread them around areas where Latinos typically may shop.

Now, the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson students that developed the idea have garnered the support of two Tucson City Council members, the Pima County Health Department, the college’s Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) Program and more than a dozen Tucson grocery stores.

In addition, staff members at the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, part of San Francisco’s Mission District – 865 miles away, saw the posters on social media and launched a video contest with one that features a flip-flop sandal with the motto: ¡Chancla para el que no se llave la manos! The phrase – “The flip-flop for those who don’t wash their hands!” – puts a playful twist on a well-recognized motherly threat in Hispanic households.

Cazandra Zaragoza, MPH, a senior medical student and recipient of a 2019 UArizona Centennial Achievement Award and 2020 UArizona Health Sciences Primary Care Physician Scholarship, came up with the notion for the posters after a shopping excursion in mid-April for home supplies for her family.

Cazandra Zaragoza, College of Medicine – Tucson senior medical student

Cazandra Zaragoza, College of Medicine – Tucson senior medical student

“I was talking to classmates later about still seeing a lot of non-compliance or lack of social distancing in grocery stores, Walmart’s and places like that,” Zaragoza said. “We realized there really weren't any posters and things in Spanish and, if there are, they have a lot of text and it's not very visual. It's not very appealing.”

The next day, fellow senior Ricardo Reyes had drawn up several mock-ups for a poster campaign. A few tweaks and they had a full dozen. One features late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in a clinical mask. One shows saguaro cacti 6 feet apart, saying: “This space isn’t empty, it’s full of love and health for my family and community.” Another with a prickly pear cactus says, “Don’t get too close – you could get hurt.”

To get the posters printed, Zaragoza and Reyes approached CUP Program Director Carlos Gonzales, MD, who was supportive but lacked funds. Likewise, Ward 5 City Council Member Richard Fimbres and Ward 1 City Council Member Lane Santa Cruz were supportive, but had limited funds to help.

Ricardo Reyes, College of Medicine – Tucson senior medical student and the artist behind the posters

Ricardo Reyes, College of Medicine – Tucson senior medical student and the artist behind the posters

Santa Cruz and Zaragoza share a natural connection from their friendship as UArizona undergrads, Santa Cruz said. She was happy to sponsor the posters because they “make sure we're getting information out to our community in a way they can grasp and understand.”

“I'm from a Hispanic family,” she added. “We like to have large family gatherings and that's not possible in this day and age.” That’s why the poster with saguaros referring to love in the space between is her favorite. “In the long run, we’re going to be better off keeping that space empty. It’s not a void. It’s full of love. Here, we're doing outreach in a way specific to our Latino community in Tucson that's culturally relevant.”

After a few more calls and connections, Mary Kinkade, MPH, a Pima County Health Department program manager and local director of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came to their rescue with REACH funds for the posters.

More than a dozen supermarkets, including Food City, are displaying the Spanish posters on COVID-19 awareness.

More than a dozen supermarkets, including Food City, are displaying the Spanish posters on COVID-19 awareness.

“CDC REACH is proud to support the UA and the City of Tucson on the prompt development and distribution of COVID-19 health information for Spanish-speaking members of our community. Collaborations like these are critical to flattening the curve and bridging the gap in access to health information,” Kinkade said.

Next, Zaragoza and Reyes, with fellow senior Arturo Martinez and incoming senior Guadalupe Davila, shopped the posters around supermarkets in largely Latino areas on Tucson’s west and south sides to get them displayed. Many smaller markets, such as El Herradero, Cardenas Markets, La Estrella, Mexico Lindo and Super Carniceria El Rodeo were more than happy to display the posters. Some bigger chains, like Food City, had to get approval of corporate offices.

The team hopes to make the posters available for more stores, restaurants, salons and other businesses as well. Three posters are downloadable at the Ward 1 Tucson City Council Office website and all 12 are available at this link. To view a photo gallery of the posters along with pictures of the students distributing them, go here.

In addition, Calle 24’s La Chancla challenge video contest received multiple entries, including this one from district marketing coordinator, Rodrigo Durán, and his wife, María José. That and other videos also are viewable at the Calle 24 Facebook page.


(Video credit: @richi28reyes, Tucson, Arizona, and Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, San Francisco, California)

For more information on the college’s activities regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, please see this link.

The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Resources webpage can be found here.

For the latest on the UArizona response to the novel coronavirus, please visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

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NOTE: Photos and images available here –

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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