Something is missing in modern-day American neighborhoods: It is the neighborly banter that occurred across the tops of fences across the country, as people who shared a common language and culture became friendly while watering their flowers, walking their dogs and mowing their lawns.
The neighborliness has gone the way of U.S. homogeneity, replaced by cultural islands, as commonalties are replaced by diversity, with a single city block occupied by immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, Ireland, the Ukraine and China.
But look closer at these islands of cultural diversity and you will notice a new network of neighborhood fences being traversed by high-speed cable modems and satellite dishes. People sharing common languages and cultures are congregating again, but they are doing it virtually via social media.
Leading the charge toward the brave new world of social interchange are the bloggers—spokespeople for the new digital town halls, where the new town criers use keyboards rather than megaphones to make statements to the community.
Latinas in Social Media
Hispanics—especially women—have been leaders in social media, partly because they are among the quickest of the demographics to adopt new technologies, but also because they tend to be a highly social group, eager to interact.
"Latinas are natural buzz-builders," says Ana Lilian Flores, a pioneering founder of the self described "Latina Bloggers," a group that helps each other establish blogging communities for everything from plus-size fashion to recipes and relationships Ms. Flores established www.spanglishbaby.com two years ago to tackle the challenge of being part of a bilingual, bicultural family in America.
She feels that there is a unique challenge in balancing the two cultures, making sure children understand and appreciate their Hispanic roots while also embracing America as the common denominator for their families and communities.
The term "Spanglish" hints at the hybrid nature of her website. Ms. Flores often speaks with fellow bloggers using phrases combining English and Spanish.
"For people who are bilingual, it is who we are," she explains. "You can't separate. You have to go back and forth. For us it is perfect."
A visit to Ms. Flores's website reveals a huge serving of "Spanglish," along with a mixture of recipes ("How to Bake Pan de Muerto") and blogging by parents anxious for advice on how to integrate languages and cultures.
There also are forums where readers can chime in, and an "Ask the Expert" section.
There is one more thing you will find on Ms. Flores' website: paid advertisers. Among the early blogging
pioneers, she is a success story, establishing an audience of more than 900, as well as advertisers anxious for the unstated endorsement of appearing adjacent to highly valued information.
Among advertisers: Ingenio bilingual toys, Little Pim Fun with Languages and the Latin Baby Book Club.
The Same, But Different
Although Ms. Flores considers herself part of the "Latina Bloggers" network, her background and editorial focus are not the same as the other members of the informal network.
"My co-workers once asked me what a chalupa is," says Carrie Ferguson Weir, a Latina blogger based in Nashville, Tenn.
"How would I know what a chalupa is? I'm Cuban!"
Ms. Weir started www.tikitikiblog.com in 2009 with her partner, Marta Darby. They intended the site to be an offshoot of another blog she developed to help promote a novelty T-shirt business.
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