Marisa Trevino was blogging from her Texas home last fall when the e-mail from Hillary Clinton landed in her mailbox.
Trevino had put out a request to the main presidential candidates, asking that they comment on her fiery blog, www.latinalista.net.
Clinton was the first to respond, but not the last.
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) was next. Then former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney weighed in. Barack Obama followed.
She posted the presidential candidates' comments as part of a regular feature on her blog site. Her Web hits soared.
"It was validating," Trevino said. "Up until recently, bloggers didn't really make a good first impression."
In the "ginormous" blogosphere, where standing out in the crowd is no easy feat, Trevino is one of a growing number of Hispanic bloggers who are helping to shape and influence political, entertainment and cultural discourse on everything from the 2008 presidential campaign and education to health insurance and celebrity trends.
One of the most famous and successful blogs on the planet was started by Mario Lavandeira, better known as Perez Hilton, the founder of www.perezhilton.com.
Hispanic blogging is on the rise.
Whites make up about 60 percent of all bloggers on the Web. English-speaking Hispanics follow at 20 percent, according to a 2007 Pew Internet & American Life Project report. African-Americans trail at 11 percent.
The presidential campaign has served as a turning point for bloggers, thrusting them from afterthoughts in the minds of candidates just four years ago to legitimate media players in 2008.
"Blogger outreach has been an important and significant component of the communications work undertaken this cycle by both the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee, and as part of our efforts, we communicate regularly with a number of Hispanic bloggers across the country," said Liz Mair, a spokeswoman for the RNC.
Before she found her calling as blogger, Trevino struggled to find the perfect outlet for her views. Choosing to spend more time with her children, she opted to work from home as a freelance journalist for more than 15 years.
But as a freelancer, she said newspaper editors only wanted to publish her stories once a month. Some editors even told her that they didn't think her skills were valuable because she focused on Hispanic women's issues.
"I had so many columns in me that needed to be written that when I discovered blogs in 2004, I knew I had found my outlet," Trevino said.
Like all bloggers, Hispanics have views on all sides. While Trevino's blog leans liberal, www.hispanicpundit.com has carved out a niche on the right.
The conservative site is run by a Los Angeles electrical engineer who grew up in Compton. He describes himself as a "problem child," who turned his life around after finding his political voice.
With blog posts such as "The Super Rich Support Obama" and "Why Does Biden Get a Pass," the 32-year-old Mexican-American behind the site, Alfonso, said his goal is to push Hispanics to consider conservative opinions.
"I just don't want Hispanics to be one-sided," he said. "People rarely know both sides of an issue."
Like many bloggers, Alfonso prefers to go by his first name only. He worries that his conservative views might hurt him with future employers.
He got his start when he was about 27, posting comments on an array of political message boards and forums.
But over time he learned that starting his own site, where he could publish his views in a central location, was a much more effective way to spread his message.
His blog has developed a presence on the Web, and he's been contacted, he said, by the McCain campaign during the presidential race. His long-term goal is to make his site more influential on a national stage.
"I want to bring both sides together," he said. "The goal is not to make everyone Republican, but make sure the issues are debated."
One blogger who has already made a major impact is Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles based blogger who belongs to a group called "Latino blogeros," who meet once a month in Los Angeles.
Her site, www.wendycarrillo.blogspot.com focuses heavily on the presidential campaign.
With a bachelor's degree in rhetorical communication studies, alongside a minor in Chicano studies from Cal State Los Angeles, her postings are thoughtful and well researched.
Earlier this year she was selected to be a political correspondent to SiTV network and Voto Latino for the Democratic National Convention.
"Hispanic blogs have allowed for cultural discourse that is often not seen in the mainstream media," she said. "While the news can do a piece on which candidate ate tacos or had a mariachi band on stage to obtain the Latino vote, we can blog about how our community consists of more than just tacos and rancheras, and we can be open and blatantly unapologetic about it."
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