Likeminded Latinos share their thoughts on Hispanic social
Migente.com 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 Migente.com ("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. Migente.com 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
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
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.