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


Valladolid, Mexico | Founded 2007 | 135+ Youth Served

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.

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 by 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.

"As a student in LEAF International I have found that music is universal, that speaks the same language, that unites us, that there is no border.”
Mario Niche
LEAF International Student


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Program Highlights

  • Participated virtually in the VLEAF LatinX Heritage appreciation festival. This was the first festival featuring all LEAF International Latin America programs.
  • School was cancelled in March 2020 and will not resume until 2021.

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.

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 that 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 Amphitheater.

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.

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.

At 16 years of age, Mario Rene Figueroa Niche dreams of being a percussionist in a large orchestra. His father is a farmer but makes very little money. The family can’t afford school so Mario helps his father. Mario’s parents don’t see the value in obtaining an education. Marco, Mario’s percussion teacher, says he has a natural talent. She invited him to participate in the band program even though he is not studying at the school. Gangs are very prominent in El Tejar, but Mario receives a sense of belonging from the music program, something positive. The band program has become Mario’s passion. In his words,

“From an early age, I have had contact with marimba music because my grandfather is a marimba player (marimbist, in Spanish) and have learned to love and admire our music, but as a student in LEAF International I have found that music is universal, that speaks the same language, that unites us, that there is no border.” -Mario Niche, LEAF International Student

Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.