Yaznil Baez was at a breaking point. It was March 2022 and the 29-year-old administrative assistant was ready to be done with dating. All the typical dating apps were leading nowhere and she was becoming increasingly pessimistic about her prospects.
“Personally, I’ve tried almost all of the dating apps and each one was unsuccessful for me,” Baez tells Refinery29 Somos. “People weren’t looking for what I was looking for. I wanted something more serious.”
While she was preparing to quit the apps altogether, Javi Lopez was just entering the scene. He had heard about a dating app thats caters to Latines looking for love and thought it could be worth exploring.
“I tried others before and Chispa was recommended by a friend,” says Lopez, 33, a client relations specialist in New Jersey. “I’m a big family person, so that was very important to me. I was looking for someone that matched my interests.”
Baez discovered Chispa through her brother, who met his now-wife on the app a few years ago. When they got married, Baez had a real-life success story to reference, so she decided to see if this particular dating app was different from the others.
“That was honestly the last resort,” Baez says. “I was so over it at that point. I just felt like I was wasting my time, honestly. I was saying, ‘enough is enough, I’m going to take a break from the dating apps’ — and then we matched.”
She and Lopez crossed paths on Chispa at the end of March 2022. It turned out to be the very first day he joined the app.
“The first day I downloaded the app, we match,” Lopez says. “I remember she was telling me that she was just ready to call it, so we could have just missed each other.”
But they didn’t, and soon they were on their first date. They had dinner together — sushi and boba tea — and when that was over, they realized they weren’t ready for the evening to end.
“Then we just wanted to keep hanging out, so we crossed the street to another place where we could sit down, hang out a little more, and talk,” Baez recalls.
After their first date, the courtship moved swiftly. They’d bonded over their shared love of baseball — the Massachusetts-born Baez is a Red Sox fan and Lopez is a Yankees fan. For their second date, Lopez took a big swing and suggested they catch a Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.
That would mean going on a day trip with someone she hardly knew. But Baez didn’t hesitate.
“I was like, let’s just do it, and we had an awesome time,” she says. “And that being a second date, we pretty much spent the whole day together and it didn’t feel awkward at all. From the start, it felt like this is someone different than what I’ve experienced before — something’s here.”
Though Baez, who’s Dominican and Puerto Rican, didn’t think her ideal match had to come from the same cultures, she soon realized it made a big difference to date someone who truly understands that aspect of her identity.
“It wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me if someone was or wasn’t Latino, but being with Javi, I can see how important it is just in terms of our families getting along so well,” she says.
Lopez is Puerto Rican and both sets of their parents are native Spanish speakers. Sharing a language, a set of traditions, and a way of life helped their families meaningfully connect. They easily communicate with each other and are “like besties,” texting and calling each other, according to Baez. They’ve all celebrated Thanksgiving, Nochebuena, and a few other occasions together.
Similarly, Lopez didn’t consider Latine heritage essential for his ideal match, but as time progressed, he saw the value in having that shared sense of culture and community. “It became important to see my parents interact with her parents and vice versa,” he says. “It just felt natural and it just felt right.”
Apps like Chispa, Mi Gente, DiHola, and others have emerged in recent years, becoming alternatives to traditional dating apps that have dominated the digital matchmaking landscape for nearly two decades. These platforms are niche, yet they provide the chance for a built-in bonding opportunity — that is, over one’s Latine identity — between the love-seeking parties involved.
“If you’re wanting to have that [culture] in common with the person you plan to share your life with, or at least share some time with, it’s great to have that certainty,” says Gabriela Reyes, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Miami and relationship expert at Chispa.
That was the case for Amelia Martinez*, a 29-year-old luxury sales specialist in New York. Martinez, “definitely” knew she wanted her future husband to be Latino. One day, a friend who had found her husband on Chispa encouraged her to join the app.
But Martinez was raised in a strict Mexican household, and her experiences led her to associate dating apps with stranger danger.
“Growing up, my mom was always like, oh, you don’t ever meet up with anyone from the Internet,” Martinez says. “They’re going to kill you. You don’t meet anyone that you don’t know. So I guess I was against them just because I was scared and I grew up like that.”
Eventually, during one fateful girls’ night, Martinez’s friend finally convinced her to give it a try.
“I picked my pictures and everything, and I was like, oh my God, this is so weird, but I guess I’m going to do it, whatever,” Martinez says. “I was single at the time, I was dating, but things were not working out for me. And I was like, might as well just try it and see what happens.”
That was November 2019. For a few weeks, Martinez’s experiences weren’t so great, and she took a hiatus from the app. But in December that same year, she matched with the Saul Diaz*, a 35-year-old law enforcement officer and the man who would go on to become her husband.
Their first date was eight hours long and their chemistry was instantaneous.
“We had a really good connection that first night that it was kind of like, oh, wow, I’ve never had this with anyone else,” she shares. “He tells me that when he picked me up that night for our first date, he texted his group chat telling them, ‘oh my God, I think this is the one.’”
Coincidentally, Aguirre, who’s Puerto Rican, had joined Chispa around the same time as Martinez. He’d also heard about it from a friend and hadn’t tried dating apps previously.
Their families get along well, but only a select few know that they met online. It’s a truth that the couple is figuring out how to navigate.
“It’ll be funny whenever I decide to tell, especially my mom for sure, and my older brother who is like my dad, but until this day, they don’t know,” Martinez says. “We came up with a whole story telling them how we met in the city when I used to work in the city.”
The couple, who were married in February 2023 in a civil ceremony, plan to reveal their real origin story at their forthcoming church wedding.
“I’m sure they’re not going to say anything at this point — we’re adults and everything — but it’s just something deep inside of my heart, like my mom is going to judge me,” Martinez says. “I’m sure it’s not going to be the case, but I guess I have PTSD from all these conversations that we had years ago.”
Doing things a certain way because that’s how their parents did it is a frequent (and frustrating) dynamic that many Latines can relate to. Reyes advises her clients, many of whom are Latine, to be kind to themselves and take the pressure off when possible.
“With Latine cultures, there is this overview of seriousness where you have to find a partner and you have to have kids,” Reyes says. “I try to really instill in them that it is okay to have fun with it.”
Not taking the search for love so seriously could be the secret to, in fact, finding serious love. That was the case for Lisette Bustos, 20, who downloaded Chispa after seeing ads continually pop up on TikTok.
She joined in June 2021 and was on the app for two months before matching with Pablo Casas, 21. They FaceTimed, texted, and called each other for about three weeks before they decided to finally meet up. At the time, they lived three hours apart, but Pablo didn’t mind the long drive.
“It was a last-minute idea,” Pablo recalls. “I just woke up and decided that today was gonna be the day that I met her once and for all.”
Both college students, their first date was at a Mexican ice cream shop, followed by a stroll at a nearby park. His family is from Jalisco and hers is from Oaxaca, and one of her most cherished memories is when their respective worlds collided.
“Being able to travel to each of those states to meet each other’s families meant a lot,” she says. “It meant how real and special this relationship is. I never believed dating apps or long-distance relationships could work out, until I met Pablo.”
*Names have been changed
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