Melbourne’s Mundo Latino

8 08 2014

Oddly perhaps, this trip to Melbourne was heavily Latin-influenced. My boyfriend, who had been away from the city for ten years, remarked that there were three main changes he had noticed in the city : it was more expensive, there were more bicycles, and it was more multicultural – meaning that the presence of non-Asian, non-European immigrants was now more apparent, Africans and Latinos. I was surprised to see signs in Spanish on Swanston Street and hear Portuguese in the trams.

We ate picanha steaks at a Brazilian steakhouse with my mum’s neighbour Thiago, joined a Colombian friend for hot chocolate with cheese at Sonido (now joined a few doors up by another Latin place, the Donkey Club) and tried guanabana icy poles at the Johnston Street Hispanic supermarket. A (Taiwanese) friend had joined a maracatu drumming ensemble and was heading to Northeastern Brazil to play at Carnaval. And one night, while searching for a place to eat, we stumbled into Pastuso, a brand new Peruvian place on Flinders Lane (one of three to open in the city this year.) I was surprised to see a well-heeled, upwardly-mobile looking crowd largely chatting in Spanish. In Melbourne? Where did that come from??

But the Latin country with perhaps the biggest hold on the Melbourne imagination is Mexico, and this despite the lack of any real Mexican community in the city. Regardless, the proliferation of Mexcian food joints I  noticed last year had continued unabated – even if they aren’t very authentic – accompanied by lucha libre wrestling, an upcoming Mexican festival, an exhibit on Mexico at the Immigration Museum and another on Aztecs at the State Museum, and a Mexico-inspired season from midrange Australian retailer Sportsgirl. No doubt about it – Mexico is hot tamales right now, down under.

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