The height of your Mexican cultural experience in Melbourne may have been consuming fishbowls of sangria and stuffing your face with soggy nachos, but our diverse city has so much more to offer than that.
There is a wealth of Mexican eateries, ranging from the heavily westernised to restaurants so authentic that it will be a struggle to pronounce the names of the dishes. Year-round experiences you can have include dancing and shopping, while annually there are several lively Mexican festivals.
Yes there is the ubiquitous Taco Bill, famed for their huge fishbowl cocktails, or if you're in a shopping centre food court, you might chance upon the Mexican themed Salsa's, which serves delicious but hardly authentically Mexican fast food.
Mexicali Rose is a slightly more genuine experience, retaining all the nachos and tequila but with a more culturally aware atmosphere.
Beef tamale from Mexicali Rose. Now that's real Mexican fare. Image: mexicali.com.au.
Mamasita is another Mexican restaurant priding themselves on giving a traditional experience with authentic cuisine. However, one thing the trendy CBD restaurant hasn't replicated is the affordability of Mexican food.
Perhaps the most genuine Mexican dining experience you can have in Melbourne is at Los Amates. They don't shy away from spice and there are no cheese-smothered nachos in sight. Go there for more than just the food- they also sell Mexican art and play traditional music.
Rest assured that tequila really is a Mexican beverage, which was both invented and continues to be made in Mexico. In fact, Mexico has laid claim to the word itself and is prone to be litigious to any other country that dares to produce their own tequila.
Whether or not Mexicans can shot tequila like Aussies is up for debate. We certainly have a wealth of tequila bars in Melbourne. Mi Corazon declare themselves to be Melbourne's premier tequila bar. With more than one hundred different tequilas on offer, a brief but sufficient menu of authentic Mexican dishes and live music twice a week, it's hard not to agree.
That's a lot of tequila. Mi Corazon is the first and possibly the best tequila bar in Melbourne. Image: facebook.com/pages/Mi-Corazon-Tequila-Bar/190535882388
Other tequila bars in Melbourne include Maya, Amigos and newly opened Little Blood, which even has hammocks for when you've consumed too much tequila to sit on a chair.
Curiousity shop Amor y Locura (Spanish for 'Love and Madness') is an explosion of creepy Mexican wares. Colourful folk art characterises the Fitzroy store, which also sells antiques sourced from Mexico and Argentina.
Sugar skulls from Amor y Locura. Image: amorylocura.com
If the paper mache skeletons at Amor y Locura are too gimmicky for your needs, there's also A Window to Mexico. An upmarket affair in Hawksburn Village, the boutique gallery owned by Mexican entrepreneur Ricardo Amare boasts folk art, jewellery and clothes.
Fiesta Mexico Dance Group
Dancing troupe Fiesta Mexico is inviting to new members. Image: fiestamexico.websyte.com.au
Join the Fiesta Mexico Community Group and get involved with traditional Mexican dancing. The dance group frequently performs at community events and festivals in intricate costumery, and meets up once a week in Rowville for practise. Their website invites new members to join anytime. You don't need to be Mexican or a good dancer, but you do need to have an interest in the culture and be committed.
See a Mariachi Band
Music is an integral part of the lively Mexican culture, with mariachi being a well known type of Mexican folk music. If you have the spare cash, you can hire mariachi band Los Romanticos to perform at your whim. Otherwise, try to catch them at a public appearance. The six piece band is particular popular at weddings and community festivals. Find out where Los Romanticos will appear next on their Facebook events page.
Los Romanticos playing Mexican folk music in Geelong. Image: mariachilosromanticos.com.au
Mexican Independence Day Mexican Independence Day is held on September 16 each year, on the anniversary of a rousing speech made in 1810. Never mind the fact that Mexico did not actually achieve independence until eleven years later on September 28.
While celebrations for Mexican Independence Day are nowhere near as big as the Day of the Dead's, it is still worth visiting Melbourne's version of it at Fed Square each year. In the most recent Mexican Independence Day, a selection of Mexican restaurants were represented at the festival, serving up their specialties. Art, dancing, mariachi performers and more joined the free festivities.
Mexican Independence Day festivities at Fed Square in 2012. Image: facebook.com/MissionsMexicanFestival/photos_stream
There are always plenty of Day of the Dead celebrations in Melbourne, although for the first time in 2012 all of the festivities were drawn together by one coordinating body. Countless parties and fiestas, dining experiences, a pop up taqueria and even a masquerade party form the Day of the Dead celebrations in Melbourne.