Founded in 2007 • Located in Xocen, Mexico
55 youth • Ages 10-14
The music program in a Mayan school in Xocen, Mexico is open to all ages in the community. On Saturdays, the two teaching artists, Manuel “Papo” Alcocer and Gilberto Gongora, instruct 55 girls and boys, ages 10 to 14. They perform thir ancestral music, helping to keep it alive in the Yucatan! They play mayan instruments, such as Cabeza de Cochino, Xtoles, Chinito Koy Koy, Danzando con los Aluxes, Noche de Ocarinas, Danza Guerrera, El Tunkul, La Cigarra, and Los Mapuches. The goal of the program is to insure community growth, cultural sustainability and instill local pride through the excellent challenge and beauty of music. A local seamstress makes costumes for the community performances at the Campesino Ampitheater.
Through the project, students gain:
- Musical skills on indigenous instruments
- Performance experience
- Increased self esteem
- Team work and leadership
- Respect for their culture and traditions
Teaching Artist Manuel “Papo” Alcocer is from Mérida and has a band called Grupo Cuarzo. He also teaches traditional Mayan music to children in a nearby town called Ixil.
“We dream of this in every town in the Yucatan. We want that some day the children of Yucatan can play a tunkul, pinquillo, or a zacatan like the people in the city would want to learn guitar or some other instrument. We hope more people will come to hear and see what the children can do.We want the world to know about what we are doing and help us here in the Yucatan." - "Papo" Alcocer, LI Mexico Teaching Artist
Sister Cities International - Sister Cities of Asheville, NC partnered as a sister city with Valladolid, Mexico. They have helped coordinate and connect LEAF International to the program at the Xocen Theater:
"Sister Cities International is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities. We strive to build global cooperation at the municipal level, promote cultural understanding and stimulate economic development. Sister Cities International is a leader for local community development and volunteer action. We motivate and empower private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to conduct long-term sister city programs. We believe that sister city programs involve two-way communication and should mutually benefit partnering communities." To read more visit: www.sister-cities.org
Indigenous Campesino Theatre Laboratory of Xocen - The Campesino Theater is a beautiful ampitheater designed for professional concerts. Tom Jones from Asheville, who lives in Valladolid part-time founded the partnership with the goal of insuring community growth and cultural sustainability to instill local pride through the excellent challenge and beauty of music. The program also supports local artists by providing drums made by local Mayan artisans and costumes made by a local seamstress.
“On the road to Xocen, I imagined we were going to hear a small group of children under a tree playing music in a very informal setting. As we walked into the Mayan amphitheater and saw the professional atmosphere and performers in front of us I was spell bound and ecstatic. LEAF and Sister Cities came together to provide the seeds, Tom has kept watering the program, and the musicians have grown a fabulous program. I was truly inspired and impressed. There was so much pride and talent, and it was mesmerizing as the unique Mayan instruments created tones and sounds indigenous to this very sacred place.”
-Jennifer Pickering, Director and Founder of LEAF
“What made this program so remarkable was how truly unexpected it was. My expectations were fairly low as we drove into the small dusty village, but when we emerged through the bushes into their homemade amphitheater, there was nothing but surprises. They had a full orchestra arranged of local children and adults playing indigenous instruments. The stone seating was reminiscent of an ancient Greek theater and the stage area was marked off as ‘sacred.’ The obvious care and quality that went into the entire production, as well as the endearing words that followed (in 3 languages: Spanish, Mayan, and English) showed how important this program was to these people. When the conductor finished with 'We hope you will continue to support us' it was hard to imagine doing anything else.”
-Leigh Maher, reflecting on a performance at the Xocen Theater