La Casa Del Mariachi
The takeout menu for this great place announces in Spanish that it's "the place where you will find good ambiance, good music and good food." And the restaurant's proud claim is no lie, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. On those nights, beginning at about 6:30, mas o menos, La Casa del Mariachi serves up bueno grub (its specialty is authentic Mexican seafood) and a free mini-floor show featuring live singing, often with live mariachi musicos such as Mariachi Tierra del Sol (who performed last May with the Phoenix Symphony at the Dodge Theatre). The night we went, we were regaled by a good-looking norteño cowboy dude in suit and hat who looked a little like a svelte Garth Brooks doing Mexican karaoke. Garthcito ended up doing a singing lap dance for a gaggle of señoritas, and later in the evening, as they so often do, the folks at La Casa broke out with live mariachi music in the spacious Salon Guadalajara. It'll cost you a cover charge to get in, but it's worth it to enjoy the raucous sights and sounds of a real-deal, full-liveried mariachi ensemble -- not to mention the enthusiastic patrons who play and dance until they shut the place down at 2 a.m.
El Capri
You might feel a bit intimidated when approaching this popular discoteca, which is situated alongside a freeway overpass. But don't be put off by the parking lot crammed with Cadillac Escalades and Audis, the squad of Phoenix cops gathered outside keeping the peace, or the lengthy line out the front door. Really: Don't let it get to you, cabrón. Just get your ass past security and onto this hot club's expansive dance floor. Shake your culo until the wee hours of the weekend to such musical styles as cumbia, norteño, mariachi and banda, provided by either a DJ or a live band, depending on what night you're there. Expect to get down alongside vatas in tight-fitting dresses, caballeros in crisp new cowboy hats and matching snakeskin boots and belts, or jersey-clad sportos wearing plenty of bling. If refreshment is required, grab a Dos Equis, Negra Modelo, or a shot of Cuervo from the bar before heading back into the crowd to stage a dance revolution. ¿Desea bailar? You will after coming to El Capri.
DWNTWN
Benjamin Leatherman
You'll find the hottest Latin club in these parts is wedged amongst the high-rises of downtown Phoenix. Without fail, Club Dwntwn draws an enormous crowd -- 1,500 people on a Saturday! -- and in just three years has expanded from two rooms to three. Even then you can barely walk through without bumping into someone. In the main room, DJs Mixxman and Czr3ro energize a crowd of well-dressed partyers with a hybrid of Spanish pop, Top 40, and tribal tunes. Elsewhere, DJs Joey and Ponk spin pure reggaeton, where, in the back room, dancers writhe under a gorgeous chandelier to salsa, merengue, bachata, and cumbia played by DJ Roberto or the occasional live band. This hopping hot spot has even drawn big-name producers and DJs from Mexico like Pelos, Mijangos, Macsi, and Bolillo. And partygoers can keep shaking their cans until the sun comes up, because the music pumps 'til 5 a.m.
Karamba
Club Karamba steams up its own windows every weekend with Kaliente Saturdays, a party packed wall-to-wall with queer Latin lovers dancing to the beat of DJs Tranz and Melo. The jockeys throw salsa, merengue, cumbia, rock and pop en español into the mix while Latin music videos project onto an enormous screen. It's a sexy backdrop for a high-energy crowd that's there to party 'til 4 a.m. And if you get there before 10 p.m., it's all free, mica!
Every month, on the night of the full moon, Nancy Lewis and her crew of Spanish-language champions convene at South Mountain's Javelina Trail to sweat out basic grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary under a glowing light other than a fluorescent one. Fluent speakers and Spanish-language newbies meet monthly to participate in a physical and linguistic workout en español. The sociable atmosphere is led by a number of hiking guides, including natives of Mexico and Ecuador as well as locals who teach the language professionally. Participants meet monthly at sundown in the Beverly Canyon parking lot, 46th Street south of Baseline Road, for the moderately challenging two-hour jaunt that is a longer yet less grueling version of Piestewa Peak. The events are English-friendly, so if you can't quite roll your tongue rapidly enough while screaming soy perdido! ("I'm lost!"), somebody will be there to guide you. The hike is free; just show up and glow.

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