Mexican Arts-Imports

Don't be fooled by the bland white exterior of the Mexican Arts-Imports building at Van Buren and 24th Street. Inside, ceiling-high shelves are crammed full of Mexican imports from maracas to painted wall tiles and rustic wooden benches. And not just the kitschy souvenir stuff Midwestern gringos love to pick up at Phoenix's dime-a-dozen pottery shops — Mexican Arts has such a huge stock of ceramics (we're talking several rooms and an outdoor patio drowning in pottery) that even other local import store owners shop here. Like a real Mexican mercado, the prices aren't set in stone. On a recent visit, we scored a cool hand-painted mask marked at $20 for just five bucks. Need a marble Madonna? Check. Hand-tooled leather gun belt? Got it. Tequila? Well, maybe not, but they've got a killer tin agave-plant liquor set you can take home and serve it from.

The Purple Lizard

We love Purple Lizard for so many reasons. This is a true neighborhood shop — we never go in without running into at least one person we know. We love Marguerite, the longtime owner, who remembers all our personal stories. Most of all, we love the merchandise. And while the bulk of the wares at P.L. include hard-to-find women's clothing lines like Flax, Krista Larson, and CP Shades, our favorite items are the ones with a little spice. There's an always-changing selection of Latin-themed art books, embroidered shirts and dresses, milagros, oilcloth (both by the yard and purses) and one-of-a-kind Day of the Dead art — from hand-carved "investment" pieces to sweet little dioramas that won't set you back much. Be careful: We find it's the accumulation of items that dents our bank account. But still, we can't wait to get over to Purple Lizard for more.

Best Place to Buy a Quinceañera Dress

I Do! I Do! Bridal

I Do! I Do! Bridal

A girl's quinceañera is, perhaps, the most important ceremony of her life (outside of her wedding), and part of the allure and fun of the whole expensive shebang is the dress. Here in Phoenix, there are plenty of Latina-centered bridal shops that sell them. That makes I Do! I Do! appear out of place here because the shop focuses mostly on bridal gowns. But tucked away in a secondary showroom, this place has the best selection of quinceañera dresses we've seen. We've stalked these poofy, candy-colored dresses since we were 15, cursing our Irish parents, and wishing we were Hispanic so we could be the guest of honor at one of these fancy coming-out parties. Of the designers this store carries, our favorite is Mori Lee Vizcayas, whose full-scalloped lace skirts and vibrant color choices are the envy of Anglo girls everywhere. What really sets I Do! I Do! apart is the level of attentive and prompt service — something that is lacking at other shops around town. If you're going to drop that much money on a dress, your personal shopper better be zipping you into it. Appointments are a must here and bilingual services are available upon request.

Best Place to Buy Quinceañera Accessories

Azteca Bridal

Azteca Bridal

There is so much more to a quinceañera ceremony than just the dress. Yeah, there's the religious aspect (kind of, we guess) and the serious, coming-of-age part, but you need so much more than a pretty dress and a rosary for the big day. There's the tossing doll (thrown away to symbolize a girl's turning into a woman — because 15-year-old girls are totally grown up), the keepsake doll, the tiara, the invitations. A lot of stuff. Azteca Bridal has a section of the accessories building in its bridal plaza devoted to quinceañeras. Its selection of keepsake dolls — miniature models of the birthday girl, right down to the same dress — is especially good and affordable, a plus because you probably spent thousands on the dress.

Too many designers in Phoenix get so distracted by sewing stuff onto other stuff that they forget the part where they're supposed to be making things that people will, you know, wear in public. Not so for Yesenia Puente and Miriam Navarro, the creative force behind Lola y Lola, a cheeky local line of clothing that we have possibly become a little obsessed with. Puente and Navarro became interested in design while studying in Paris in 2001 and their line (which debuted at a fashion show in 2004) combines the intrinsic grace of France with their Mexican heritage's whimsy and bright colors. The result is a line that's a true standout. We're particularly partial to their tank tops — especially "El Otono" and "El Monstruo" — and have a feeling these two could make a tidy little profit if the bigwigs at Urban Outfitters were to catch wind of what they're doing. Until they hit the big time, you can score their super-cute tanks, Ts, and dresses at stores such as Mint Vintage, Way Cool Hair, Conspire, and on etsy.com.

The coke-rap of T.I., Young Jeezy, and The Re-Up Gang is humdrum. Next stop: narcocorridos, where epic tales of Mexican drug-running are blended with corridos norteños (bouncy, accordion-accented ballads). El Idolo de Oro is your no-frills hookup, peddling myriad musical outlaws including Sinaloan legend Chalino Sanchez. In '92, Sanchez shot a would-be assassin during a concert and was later killed under mysterious circumstances. His prominence and early demise spawned countless imitators, most of whom you'll find here. The translation of the shop's name, The Golden Idol, should warn aspiring traficantes everywhere.

Barack Obama has used "Yes, We Can!" as his rallying cry and it's not an accident. Team Obama has sampled and remixed the "¡Sí se puede!" chant that César Chávez and Delores Huerta came up with for the United Farm Workers. Their presence still echoes today via La Campesina Radio Network, initially established by the UFW with the help of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Chávez's youngest son, Anthony, acts as its current president. In addition to keeping farmworkers up to date, they keep things moving with quite the palette of regional Mexican music, even landing legendary Mexican performer Vicente Fernandez as a DJ.

95.1-FM Latino Vibe KVIB

What makes Latino Vibe so cool is that it reflects the diversity of the Latino culture to which it caters — playlists include everything from Argentinian cumbia group SuperMerka2, Dominican bachata/R&B fusion band Aventura, Colombian pop-rock star Juanes, and Mexican reggaeton group Sonidero Nacional to Top 40 artists like hip-hop/R&B sensation Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias. The station also sponsors a variety of concerts (recent shows included Camila and RBD) and hosts two hot club nights in the Valley — Noches Tropicales with DJ Wicked at Club Mango on Fridays, and Noches de Antro Estilo Mexico at Club Rain with DJs Cesar Tercero and Mixxman.

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.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of