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Reuters English News Service
For U.S. Hispanics, Web Options Multiply
By Cyntia Barrera Diaz
August 22, 2001
NEW YORK - From a recipe for mouth-watering Bolivian saltenas, to following a favorite Mexican soccer team or finding new friends on the Web, the Internet is now overflowing with Spanish-language options for U.S. Hispanics.
The rising number of Hispanic-oriented Internet sites over the last years and Corporate America's wooing of this market reflect the growing economic power of Hispanics. There are now more than 35 million Hispanics in the United States with a purchasing power estimated at around $500 billion.
Recent U.S. census data showed the U.S. Latino population shot up nearly 60 percent over the last decade and that in many big cities, such as Los Angeles, Hispanics will outnumber whites very soon.
"There is a strong sense of a culture that is being recognized and highly celebrated," said Fabiola Carcamo, site manager of New York-based MiGente.com (http://migente.com), whose motto is "The power of Latinos" and targets the 18-to 35-year-old audience, or second and third generation Hispanics.
MiGente.com is more of a community site where members speak their minds on issues ranging from actor Edward James Olmos' jail time for protesting against the U.S. Navy's war games on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques to J-Lo's derriere.
The site revolves "around identity issues: what it means to be a Latino here, a bilingual speaker, and what it means to have roots back home but also have the American nature of you," Carcamo said.
While over 70 percent of U.S. Hispanics are of Mexican heritage and the group itself shares many things in common - such as strong family links or a passion for certain sports - Latinos cannot be treated as one huge bloc.
Take for instance Yahoo! en Espanol Deportes, at http://espanol.sports.yahoo.com, the Spanish-language sports arm of Internet media giant's Yahoo! Inc. . While keeping visitors posted with the latest international sports events, a click on its futbol, or soccer football, will offer a vast list of news about Brazil's top soccer teams to the latest results about who is in and who is out of the Copa Libertadores, a widely known soccer tournament in Latin America.
When Hispanics are on the Internet, they "look for different things because it is a group that has a lot of different people within it," said Fernando Battaglia, producer for Yahoo! en Espanol,
Among them, there are large and distinct groups of Americans Hispanics from Mexico, Puerto Ricans , Dominican Republic and Cuba.
"What we try to do is provide as many choices as we can so that we are not limiting their options," he said. "It's up to you, go grab whatever you need, look for whatever you want. Hispanics define themselves on Internet."
Hispanics may speak the same language, but second and third generations, those who were born and raised in the United States, have now developed their own code, a mix of Spanish and English dubbed as Spanglish.
Internet site Loquesea.com (http://us.loquesea.com), is a living proof of the likes of that evolving Latino community that holds to its roots.
Chiky Picante, a Lisa Loeb look-alike columnist, offers loquesea.com's mostly teen audience answers to sex, heart and beauty dilemmas.
"Hola chiky wazzup? well i have a curiosidad. What can get a hombre really caliente? You know i wanna' try to add new spice to my relationship con mi novio. Do you have any consejos or ideas?," wrote stressed La Spicy from California seeking for Chiky's wise words.
But if tongue-in-cheek content is not exactly what Hispanics look for, there are other sites out there, like Lavox.com, (http://www.lavox.com) which advertises itself as "your magazine in Spanish from the United States."
With categories ranging from the rich and the famous to health, art and horoscopes, this online mag keeps on top of international gossip. So if you want to find out Monaco's Princess Charlotte latest fashion scream or see how Brazilian bombshell Giselle Bundchen struts her stuff on the catwalk, this is your one stop.
Want a bit more options?
Check music site YeYeYe.com (http://www.yeyeye.com) to find out about Latin American bands gigs in the United States. Or log on to Batanga Internet radio (http://www.batanga,com) and, when feeling homesick, listen to Mexican ranchero icon Vicente Fernandez or liven up with merengue sensation Elvis Crespo or Venezuela's funk stars Los Amigos Invisibles.
Se habla espanol, y mucho.