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His mobile banking services company, No Borders, offered videoconferencing between sites in the United States and Latin America for two years before it spun off that part of his business in 2005 to a concern in Pueblo, Mexico, called Creative Networks.

Creative Networks links up personal computers at a dozen affiliates in the United States to a Latin American network of Internet cafes with broadband Internet access, Hinojosa-Ojeda said. Hispanic immigrants typically don't have computers at home, much less have the kind of high-end computers and broadband access necessary for clear, live video transmission and reception.

"The way most PCs allocate power to images is less than what you need to get really good quality," said Elliot Gold, president of Telespan, a company that provides market analysis of the teleconferencing and videoconferencing industry. "The image gets really grainy when you blow it up on a large screen." Specialized videoconferencing equipment, he said, is usually the way to go for getting "the other person is in the room with you" type of experience.

And that is what homesick immigrants like Huete in Houston want. "It's good to feel as if the family is in the same place," he said.

Many times, immigrants set up a videoconference to mark a special occasion. For example, Rojas said families in two countries assemble before video screens to celebrate birthdays, engagements and 50th wedding anniversaries. They sit around, talk, eat cake and drink wine.

One of his customers recently scheduled a videoconference to show her mother in El Salvador the gown she was going wear at her upcoming wedding. "I cry 9 times out of 10," Rojas said.

The cost of these kinds of virtual reunions ranges from $80 to $120 an hour depending on the Latin American country. This is far less than at places like FedEx Kinkos, which charges $265 to $350 and requires the party in Latin America to provide their own equipment since the business services chain doesn't have locations there.

While still expensive for many immigrants, some say it's worth it. "I was able to see my auntie and uncle," said Blanca Leticia Pineda de Juarez, a nanny in Los Angeles who immigrated to the United States from Guatemala 15 years ago. She hadn't seen them since she left and was able to introduce them to her infant daughter last month during a videoconference at AmigoLatino's Los Angeles office.

"It made me feel so good," she said during a telephone interview. "I'm definitely going to do it again."


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