LI Mexico

Founded in 2007 | Located in Xocen, Mexico

 55 youth served ages 10-14

“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


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Program Overview

LEAF International’s music program in Xocen, Mexico is held in a small Mayan school, and is open to all ages in the community. On Saturdays, two teaching artists, Manuel “Papo” Alcocer and Gilberto Gongora, instruct the students. They perform thir ancestral music, helping to keep it alive in the Yucatan! They play mayan instruments, such as Cabeza de Cochino, Xtoles, Noche de Ocarinas, 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.

The Impact

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
Meet a Teaching Artist

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.



From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.

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Project Highlights

LI Mexico students are proud to present a performance titled “Mayan Sacred Moments” on July 28 at the X’ocen Theater. The group created this beautiful flyer to promote their work!



A thirty person ensemble performed in a community concert at the Xocen Ancient Mayan Ampitheater.

Three guest artists visited from Merida, the capital of the Yucatan. They taught music and gave insight into cultural diversity within Mexican and Mayan music traditions. 
The kids were elated and hope this will happen again.

Featured Partners

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.



Indigenous Campesino Theatre Laboratory of Xocen: a beautiful ampitheater designed for professional concerts. Tom Jones from Asheville founded the partnership with the goal of instilling 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.




History  and  Culture

Valladolid is a bustling Mayan city-town between Merida and Cancun. The majority of the townspeople still follow the typical dress of the Mayan and the town preserves a special colonial flavor with its historical architecture. Xocen is an ancient town in the milpa area of the Mexican State of Yucatán, situated 12 kilometers southeast of Valladolid. The Xocenese only speak Yucatec Mayan. The inhabitants fought hard against the Spanish conquerors. The people of Xocen talk of this resistance with great pride and it serves as a focal point of their identity.
Learn about music from Mexico here: