LEAF International | Mexico

Located in Valladolid, Mexico | Founded 2007 | 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


Program Overview

LEAF 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
  • 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.



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Project Highlights


LI 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.

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. 





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.