A Spanish-themed party is a fun way to experience Spanish culture. Incorporate delicious Spanish foods from all over the Latin world into your menu, decorate with bright colours and get the party started with add some lively Spanish music and dancing. Before you know it, your guests will be channelling their inner Shakira, Marc Anthony or Celia Cruz.
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Serving Latin cuisine is essential at a Spanish-themed party. You can stick to one country's cuisine or serve a little something from a variety of countries, using little paper flags from the different countries to identify the dishes.
Here are a few country-specific dishes to consider: SPAIN Paella is a traditional saffron rice from the Valencia region, which is on the coast south of Barcelona. It consists of rice, beans, green vegetables, meat or seafood, and saffron and olive oil. Jamón Serrano, a dry-cured ham, is another traditional Spanish dish served cold in very thin slices. This ham can be part of a tapas bar that includes other small plates of cold, warm and fried items.
MEXICO Put out all the ingredients so guests can create their own tacos or fajitas. Don't forget the chips, salsa and fresh guacamole.
CUBA Add a little Caribbean flavour to your party with some dishes from the island. Ropa Vieja, which literally means "old clothes" is a delicious shredded beef served over rice. Arroz con Pollo is a chicken and rice dish that uses the same kind of rice used in paella. As a side, whip up a batch of black beans and rice.
PUERTO RICO Monfongo is everywhere in Puerto Rico. Make this tasty side dish by mashing together twice-fried plantains with garlic, olive oil and chicharrones (fried pork rinds) or bacon.
For desert, serve flan, a lightweight vanilla egg custard common in many Spanish-speaking countries.
Mojito cocktail with mint leaves image by Vladimir Melnik from Fotolia.com
There are no shortage of great drinks options to continue your Latin theme. One simple idea is to make a large batch of sangria, a wine punch from Spain made with a lot of fruit. Other tasty options are margaritas (Mexico), mojitos (Cuba), caipirinhas (Brazil) or pisco sours (Chile and Peru).
Non-alcoholic options include Mexico's aqua fresca (made with a variety of different fruits) or horchata. Or, just offer "virgin" options of your alcoholic drinks.
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Bright colours will set a festive mood for fun and laughter. Use the flags of different Spanish countries to add colour and authenticity to your party. Hang a pair of maracas on your front door to welcome guests and make a little noise every time someone arrives. Visit your local party store to get sombreros for every guest or to hang from the ceiling. You can also string them together on a line to hang in doorways. Strings of green and red lights will add a nice glow. Get lights that look like strings of hot peppers for added fun.
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Spanish culture is known for its lively music and dancing. You can go traditional or popular, depending on your mood. There are many Latin dance CDs available through online outlets. Putumayo World Music is one company that has produced a number of compilation CDs of Latin music guaranteed to liven up your party. Some popular artists with widely available CDs include Celia Cruz (classic salsa), Shakira (pop), Juanes (rock), Mark Anthony (salsa), the Buena Vista Social Club (Cuban), Aventura (Bachata) and Los Tigres del Norte (Norteno).
If you budget permits, hire a live Latin band to play mariachi, flamenco, bomba or salsa music.
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Although some of your guests may already know the moves, consider hiring a local dance instructor to teach your guests how to do flamenco, tango, salsa, mambo or the cha-cha-chá. Be sure to have a large open space for your dance floor.