We've been fans of this show since back in the days when it used to broadcast on AM radio station La Buena Onda. But we got really excited last year when the group of 20-something Hispanics managed to make the jump to the FM dial. Now broadcasting on 95.1 Latino Vibe, in Spanglish, the Breakers reach a greater audience. Which is muy, muy bueno. Their intelligent discussions about everything from immigration reform to teen pregnancy, and their funny insights on growing up Latino in Arizona are a much-needed breath of fresh air. And people are listening. When ASU almost pulled scholarship funding for undocumented students this past year, the Breakers were part of the push to reinstate it. And it worked. Look for big things to come from this dynamic bunch. And remember, you heard it here first.

DJ Melo's responsible for keeping the party going at one of the hottest (and, incidentally, gay) Latin nightclubs in Phoenix: Karamba. The dance floors here are often so crowded on weekends that there's no maneuvering through them, and much of that is due to Melo's mash-ups, influenced by such Latin DJ legends as Kassanova and Roberto Dominguez. Melo spins a similar mix of cumbias, bachatas, salsa, bossa nova, and reggaeton, infused with pulsing electro beats. He takes tons of requests, too, which is (sadly) rare among club DJs these days (unless you've got a couple bucks to throw their way). Though he focuses on spinning sizzling hot Latin rhythms, Melo's base can be broad — he's even been known to bust out some hip-hop beats for the b-boys.

DJ Big Latin bumps more beats in Valley clubs than any other DJ. Even if he's not spinning at one of his weekly gigs — Thursdays at La Perla Café in Glendale, Fridays at both Macayo's downtown and Club DWNTWN, Saturdays in The Latin Room at Coach & Willie's — his company, Big Latin Entertainment, is booking and promoting other Latin dance events around town, like an official birthday bash for Grammy-winning artist DJ Kane (of Kumbia Kings), and the Sixth Annual Untouchable Lows Car Show in Nogales. Big Latin's got an ear for upcoming talent and was the first promoter in the Valley to book national reggaeton stars like Pitbull and Daddy Yankee to perform here. And he still spins the meanest mix of reggaeton, cumbias, and Latin hip-hop.

DWNTWN
Benjamin Leatherman

Club Dwntwn continues to be a red-hot Latin nightspot, and not just because of its fiery scarlet-and-crimson color scheme or the faux-flame statues just outside its entrance. The downtown Phoenix danceteria's just hot, period, and it's where a sizable Hispanic crowd, sporting their finest duds (as the dress code is strictly enforced), goes out every weekend. There is an amply-sized dance floor where chicas and cabrones (as well as cool cats of other ethnic backgrounds) can bump their humps to hip-hop, old school, and reggaeton jams from DJs Phlava and Big Latin. Saturdays always seems extra-crowded, as the sounds of salsa, merengue, bachata and other Latin jams come from the sound system, courtesy of a turntablism trio of DJs Joey, Rubas, and Luis. Never before has being hot been so cool.

The Matador Mexican Food Restaurant

At this point, we don't know who's been around longer: AL3, Phoenix's Turntable Patriarch and international DJ all-star, or The Matador — the iconic downtown Mexican food joint that's been busting out burritos for almost three decades. All we know for sure is that magic happened when these two joined forces. Freakin' good clubbin' in a restaurant? Are we serious? We sure are. The tables are cleared, and the dance floors are filled by some of the most muy sabrosa clubbers around. Not sure yet? Don't just trust us, ask the nearly 1,000 people who line up outside along Adams on a Friday night waiting to get in and shake that thang to the best booty-rockin' reggaeton, old-school beats, hip-hop hits, and cumbia 'round back. Be advised — there's no room for chillin'; the dance floor's packed with caliente chicas aplenty who come here to dance.

Karamba

Karamba Nightclub is the overachieving bar that could. While they rack up international accolades as one of the planet's best gay bars, they're still workin' on workin' it out on the dance floor for all their fans. Like the unmatched Vaquero Thursdays. This night brings the best beats from DJ Miguel, who we think is just about the best DJ in the 'Nix, spinning pop en español, cumbia, norteño, and banda. Wear your boots that are made for dancin' and join a merry mix of cowboys, clubbers, and cuties on the dance floor, while a world-class sound system blasts the bomb beats. Sure, if you need a break, there are $3 pitchers of beer. Who's paying attention to that while The Susana Show, hosted by the lovely reina Susana, delivers delicious impersonations of Gloria Trevi, Thalia, and our hero — Shakira? Her hips don't lie! Forget about staying en su casa; Thursday nights are all about Karamba's Vaquero Thursdays.

Maria Maria Restaurant

Carlos Santana appears to be supernaturally gifted at stuff other than playing guitar. Take his shoe line, for example — festive, affordable heels that are sexy rather than sleazy. The same adjectives apply to Maria Maria, his restaurant concept: festive, affordable, sexy-not-sleazy. Either the man's a wizard at creating ambiance, or he knows enough to pick the right partners. The result is that the new Maria Maria in Tempe Marketplace feels less like a chain and more like a trip. The food is pretty good — sort of South American/Mexican, a little pricey, a little fussy, but fresh and flavorful — but the real reason to drop by on a Saturday night is the scene. Perch on a bar stool, sip on a caipirinha or a mojito, and groove to the sounds of Habana Soul, one of the live bands the restaurant showcases on weekends. And watch yourself: Under the Santana spell, you just might find yourself on the tiny dance floor, alongside the Latin lovelies who really know what they're doing.

La Casa Del Mariachi

No quinceañera or boda (Mexican wedding) in sight to satisfy your thirst for the joyous blare of mariachis? There's always La Casa del Mariachi, where the excellent Mexican fare, the Crayola-bright interior, and the music makes it the place to be. On weekends, the adjacent dancehall hosts quite the fiesta with a full mariachi band, brass and all.

Best Place to Hear Sad Mariachi Music

Oaxaca

Oaxaca Restaurant and Cantina
Courtesy of Oaxaca

Heartbroken? The remedy is Oaxaca. Three grandfatherly gentlemen on guitar, vihuela, and guitarrón post up on Friday and Saturday nights in the cozy, zarape-wrapped lounge. Their soulful croonings of love — whether fulfilled, unrequited, or lost — always ring true, especially when you're wistfully nursing a beer.

Bomberos Café & Wine Bar

We swear we're not trying to be trendy by saying we like South American wines. Scout's honor, we've long thought they were a great bang for the buck, and often stocked our depleted wine rack with South American labels when we couldn't afford the stuff from California. But ever since our pal came back from a trip to Buenos Aires — move over, Prague, it's the new bohemian jetset destination — we've heard way too much about how great the wines are in Argentina. So what a blessing that Bomberos Café & Wine Bar opened its doors in a funky renovated firehouse building in Sunnyslope, serving fantastic wines from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay. We're fans of the berry-rich Susana Balbo Malbec, but alas, that's one of the few choices not available by the glass. Which means we're usually looking for a friend or two to join us in the sleek, candlelit bar, or out on the inviting back patio. If you're not busy later on, you'll know where to find us.

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