LEAF International | Mexico

Located in Valladolid, Mexico | Founded 2007 | 135 Youth Served ages 10-15

Why Mexico? Sister Cities of Asheville has a relationship with Valladolid. One of the leaders, Tom Jones, reached out to LEAF inquiring if we would be interested in partnering to start a Mayan music program in the small village of Xocen.

“We love to share our culture and being in Asheville gave us a platform to do so globally.”

Mirna Rodriguez, LEAF International Mexico Partner

See the Program in Action

Program Overview

LIMexMayanClassWEBLEAF International’s music program in Valladolid, Mexico is held in Ramon Osorio, a middle school for students who need to work during the day.  The school is committed to teaching 21st century skills and Mayan traditions through integrating the Mayan language into many of their activities. The students perform their ancestral music as they play Mayan instruments from cultures such as: Cabeza de Cochino, Xtoles, Noche de Ocarinas, El Tunkul, La Cigarra, and Los Mapuches. The goal of the program is to ensure community growth, revive cultural sustainability, and instill local pride through the excellent challenge and beauty of music. The school and its teachers are highly committed to working with the students on creating cross-disciplinary productions that share the meanings of Mayan instruments, music, dance, and language into the student’s studies. 

The Impact

Through the project, students gain:

  • Musical skills on indigenous instruments
  • Mayan language instruction
  • Performance experience
  • Increased self esteem
  • Team work and leadership
  • Respect for their culture and traditions
Meet a Teaching Artist

Marco Lievano has been teaching traditional Mayan culture for more than 15 years. He specializes in ceremonial traditions and provides weekly night classes to youth who have to work during the day. His energy and commitment to culture brought him to LEAF where he serves as the culture keeper of LEAF International Mexico programming. 

Honoring the original Teaching Artist from 2011 who helped launch this program. Manuel “Papo” Alcocer is from Mérida and had a band called Grupo Cuarzo. He taught traditional Mayan music to children in a nearby town called Ixil and helped carried the Mayan drum making forward.



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Project Highlights


LEAF International Mexico makes their first ever festival appearance. The group partnered up with LEAF International Costa Rica to provide a phenomenal 5-day residency at Pisgah Elementary school. In addition to their residency, the groups did cultural exchanges with several LEAF Schools & Streets programs including the Christine Avery Center, Burton Street, Pisgahview and the Wesley Grant community center. Learn more about their journey: LIMexico&CRReport18


This February the LEAF International Mexico youth participated in a competition at the Ramon Osorio y Osorio school in Valladolid. The competition involved 8 schools from the Valladolid Yucatan Metropolitan Region and the young performers did an exceptional job showing the drumming skills they have developed through the LEAF International program!


LEAF International Mexico students put on a marvelous culminating performance. First individual students read poems they wrote in Mayan. Then groups of students choreographed choral poems which spoke on both of the traditions and ways they identify as Mayans now. Other students plated traditional instruments while others dressed in ceremonial clothes and enacted portions of various Mayan ceremonies.


LEAF International 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. 





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. On August 30, 2012, Valladolid became part of the El Programa Pueblos Mágicos(“Magical Villages Programme”) which is an initiative led by the Mexican tourism dept.to display influential towns in Mexico based on their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance to the country.