October 12, 2007

TierraNatal connects you with Mexico — online

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Imagine you could find more information about that ranchito your family is from in Mexico. Or imagine you could stay in touch with what’s going on in your town or city of origin in Mexico.

Also, if you’re not of Mexican heritage but if you traveled through Mexico and would like to share information, tourist tips, and pictures of your trip, tierranatal.com might be the perfect site for you.

TierraNatal, which was founded by Liliana Townshend, a San Diego lawyer from Rancho Santa Fe, is a Hispanic online community and social network where anybody can share and expand their love for Mexico and its culture and places.

“We created the TierraNatal community so everyone can share in their rich cultural backgrounds and help keep their Mexican heritage alive and prospering,” Townshend said. “From sharing family traditions to recipes to just saying a simple hello to an old friend, TierraNatal is a fun way to stay connected, to form new and stronger relationships, and to learn about all of the different communities throughout Mexico.”

TierraNatal includes a complete database of communities, even remote ones, all over Mexico. You select a state from a map of Mexico, then you choose the Municipio, or county, you want, and a list of almost any city, town or rancho comes up. Then you select the place you want to visit, and listo!

Registration is free, and once you register, you can add information about the place you chose, such as family histories, news, pictures, memories, the options are endless. For this, you use a wiki, which allows you to add any information you like about the place you chose.

If you prefer not to register, you can browse through each of the minisites for each place and learn more about each community.

TierraNatal, which opened in July, has about 1,000 registered users, 80% of them in the United States, and about 200,000 page views each week, Townsend said.

The site is completely bilingual to attract younger, U.S.-born generations, and you can choose to communicate in either English or Spanish.

“TierraNatal is a really cool place to meet new people, and that’s one of my favorite things to do!” said user Morenita from California. “I like it ‘cause you can look into your culture and be in touch with friends from out side your normal circle of friends.”

Another user, La Dama Abanico, said that “with TierraNatal I can create relationships that help me advance in my career and at the same time integrates the love for my country in my daily life.”

Townshend, who was born in Guadalajara but grew up in Los Angeles, said that the idea for TierraNatal was born after Jocotepec.com, a similar site she created four years ago so that her father could have an activity after he retired from his job.

Jocotepec is her parents’ place of origin in Jalisco. Townshend said that Jocotepec.com has grown to become a major social and community resource for all Jalisciences living in the United States. It is used to post pictures of quinceañeras, to announce community meetings, etcetera.

Townshend said she wanted to expand the mission of Jocotepec.com to include all of Mexico.

She said that, so far, clubs and communities from the states of Jalisco, Zacatecas, Michoacan, and Colima, are the ones that are the most involved with the project.

In November, she’s planning to launch TierraNatal’s second phase, which will be expanded to include users’ blogs, town fundraisings, and a binational business directory.

The site’s slogan is “TierraNatal. Culture. Pride. Community.”

“We created TierraNatal as a conduit to reconnect and explore our home towns, cement old bonds and to create new ones, and to share our lives and dreams with new friends as well as the people that are dear to our hearts. We’re creating bi-national communities online.”

Visit www.tierranatal.com.

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