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The Arizona Republic

Latinos Logging On And Loving It

By Carol Sowers

August 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved.

Hispanics in the United States are relatively new to the Internet, but they are logging on faster than any other ethnic group nationwide and in Arizona.

National and local pollsters say Hispanics are not only the fastest-growing group of online users, they are younger and more advanced, using computers to buy movies, music, tickets and computer software online.

In Phoenix, Latinos, like just about any other group, are buying computers to take advantage of the access they offer, to help their businesses and to use them for school., the online group of the National Retail Federationof Washington, D.C., said in April that 12.6 million Hispanics are online, up 43 percent in less than a year.

The numbers are equally dramatic in Arizona, where 68 percent of the state's Latino population owned computers in 2003, up from about 40 percent in 1998, according to a poll conducted in spring 2003 by the Behavior Research Center of Phoenix. Of those who own computers, 73 percent are hooked to the Internet, the poll said.

"That puts Hispanics pretty close to the norm for other Arizona populations," Bruce Hernandez of the Behavior Research Center said.

Alma Betancourt, 34, of Phoenix, bought a computer in January to help her three children with their schoolwork. Betancourt, who sells beauty and other products, quickly discovered that the Internet would allow her to go global.

"Now I can sell products to other countries," she said.

Betancourt has expanded her inventory with products she discovered online.

Betancourt, who also buys movie and airline tickets online, fits the profile of Hispanic computer owners, who are younger than the general plugged-in population,

According to, only 5 percent of Hispanic Internet users nationwide are 55 and over, compared with 21 percent of the general online population.

With their national buying power growing from $504 billion in 2000 to nearly $653 billion in 2003, according to the University of Georgia, Latinos are a juicy market for advertisers in cyberspace.

Arizona's Hispanics also are ringing up more cash, their buying power jumping to nearly $20 billion in 2003, up from $15 billion in 2000, according to the Georgia study.

Sergio Carlos is president of Grupo Ñ, a 5-year-old Phoenix advertising agency focused on reaching Arizona Hispanics.

"It is very important for us to know the habits of Hispanic consumers as it relates to the Internet," Carlos said,

His clients, which include the Arizona Lottery and the state Department of Health Service's anti-tobacco campaign, want to know "all of the mediums" that will reach Latinos, he said.

Polls show that Latino parents understand the value of at-home computers for their school-age children, but some can't afford to buy them.

Janett Zazueta, 18, a Phoenix College student, said a computer and printer wasn't in her parents' budget. So about six weeks ago, she used her wages from her job as an office assistant and part of her scholarship to buy a computer and printer for a total of about $1,000.

Like many young users, she's trolling the net for upgrades.

"I'm looking for a Web cam on eBay," she said.

Eva Hernandez, 17, another PC student, works part-time in retail. Like Zazueta, Hernandez had to come up with nearly $1,000 to buy her own computer and printer two years ago.

"I'm still paying for it," she said. "I bought it so I don't have to struggle going to libraries to use computers."

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