Likeminded Latinos share their thoughts on Hispanic social site
Arizona Republic
02.22. 2007

 Yvonne Wingett is like being in a room with thousands of other Latinos.

For Latinos, the social Web site has become a place they go to trade notes about love, golf, restaurants, recipes, politics, TV shows and celebrities, just like other social networking sites.

But unlike MySpace and Facebook, Migente (pronounced mee-HEN-tay) has an emphasis on culture that allows the Valley's growing Hispanic population to build their own cyber communities, person by person, chat room by chat room.
Since English-language ("my people") launched in 2000, its popularity has grown in metro Phoenix, one of its top markets, with 20,000 users in the Valley and connecting Latinos in Glendale to Latinos across the U.S., Mexico and beyond.

These days, everyone's looking for a community to belong to. and other ethnic-niche Web sites give the country's 40 million Latinos a chance to meet on common ground, using heritage as a connector.

"It's like the difference between going to a party where there's 1,000 people, but really 10 people that you may want to meet," said Benjamin Sun, president and CEO of Community Connect Inc., which runs Migente and other ethnic-based social sites. "It's that shared U.S. Latino interest that lays the foundation for friendships or relationships."

Migente's typical user is 28 years old, a second- or third- generation Hispanic who speaks English and is evenly split between males and females.
It has 2.6 million registered users nationally and is made up of mostly Mexican-Americans in the Southwest, and mostly Caribbean Latinos, such as Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, along the East Coast.

Valley Latinos create profile names in English, Spanish and Spanglish, identifying themselves like "swtlatnprincess" (sweet Latin princess), "Mexicanbrain" (Mexican brain), "Mijolatino" (Latin son), "Llocothug602"
(crazy thug from Phoenix area code 602), "Latinoaz" and "az_pimpstress."

Maria Cisneros, screen name LaMariaMaria, cruises Migente every day. The Mesa bookkeeper uses it to meet other single Hispanics, finds dates and reads the news. She logs on at work and later at home and sends notes to her friend stationed in Iraq and talks to friends in Chihuahua and Zacatecas, Mexico.

"It's like you automatically have something in common with everyone" on Migente, said Cisneros, 31, a second-generation Hispanic. "The Latinos looking to date on MySpace get kind of trashed out. On Migente, you actually get responses that are serious."

In the forums, they talk about relationships, style, families, cars, jobs and technology. Mexican-Americans and Black Latinos talk about interracial dating. They go back and forth on how much Latin blood a person has to have to be Latin enough.

In another forum, titled "Can a Mexican have a boricua fetish?,"
Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans wonder if they're abandoning their roots by dating the other ethnicity. One girl writes: "I'm a mexicana pero (but) I love the boricua (Puerto Rican) culture. I enjoy everything about it, specially their accent. Does that mean I'm betraying my roots?"

Migente's news stories range from national and international politics, sports and entertainment. Recent top-rated stories included the LA mayor calling for international efforts to deal with Latino gangs and the soccer match between the U.S. national team and Mexico. A popular story in late January was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez telling U.S. officials to "Go to hell!" for what he called meddling in Venezuela's affairs.

For Frankie Fuentes, Migente is a central location for everything Latino.
From his Glendale home, he has bumped into old classmates, found good Mexican seafood restaurants and talked to muscle-car fanatics about car parts.

"It's a good place to go to get in touch with my culture," said Fuentes, 31, a nurse. "To find out what people are talking about, how people are doing."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-4712.