Culture and Community with Yara Landa

Posted by Playa Viva on July 10, 2024

In recent years a new team member has enabled us to add cultural events, showcasing Mexican traditions, spirituality, and our sustainability projects to our offering but what are they and who’s behind them? Find out in this interview with Yara Landa, fashion designer, entrepreneur, and Cultural lead at Playa Viva; who gave us the opportunity to learn about the entire process through her eyes.

David: Tell us, what is your name, how many years have you been here and what is your role at Playa Viva?

Yara: My name is Yara Landa, I have been at Playa Viva nearly three years now and I am in charge of the Boutique and lead cultural events

David: Cultural leader, explain what that means?

Yara: I am responsible for organizing events that aim to share beautiful Mexican traditions with our guests. In my first year working here at Playa Viva, I had the initiative to plan a special event for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead as it is more commonly known outside of Mexico (which is one of my favorite Mexican traditions). We invited guests to participate and feel part of the tradition, showing them how the altar is made, explaining the characteristics and history of the celebration, and why it is culturally significant to us. It was an honor to give them the opportunity to enjoy special moments like being blessed with copal to cleanse their spirit and aura, adding photos of their family members to the altar, and helping them to feel connected to their loved ones through the ceremony. One of the ways in which we adapt this tradition to the Playa Viva style is to give them marigold petals for them to make a path from the altar to the dining room so that they feel that their family member is eating with them. That’s how it started. 

After that in the same year we organized a posada which is a traditional event that brings families and friends together ahead of Christmas.  We shared this tradition with the guests in the Mexican style, with Mexican Christmas carols at candlelight, we broke the piñata, we explained the history to them and we invited them to participate. This year we even had dancers from the local community come to perform dances that are unique to this place. The response from those first two events was so positive that now we have an annual calendar of traditional events such as Dia de Mariachi, Festival of San Martin and monthly full moon ceremonies to name just a few. 

I love planning and executing the events, sharing my culture in Playa Viva style is such a pleasure because by engaging the guests we are keeping these traditions alive. My favorite thing is seeing how the guests react, they always leave very happy, very grateful and they take a part of our culture home with them. 

David: What other events are you thinking of adding? What do you like to do and how do you do it?

Yara: More than adding other events, I would like to think about how to make them more meaningful for the guest. For example, the full moon ceremony that we offer every month to harness the full moon’s energy and take time to be thankful, let go of what no longer serves and invite in abundance. I am constantly working with our Holistic Hosts to make them deeper, more meaningful and memorable for the guests, so that they feel more secure that they are in a healthy circle to be able to free themselves, share and express themselves, that is the intention of the ceremonies and it is a honor to provide that space.

David: Tell me, thinking about the guest experience, what do you think makes Playa Viva different? 

Yara: Out of all of the hotels I have visited and stayed at, I cannot compare any to the experience you have as a guest in this place. One of the advantages I have is that I stayed at the hotel twice, once about 5 years ago an the second time 3 years ago. Getting to know the staff first as a guest and then as a worker has been very meaningful, I already felt a good connection with them just as a guest but now as a team member getting to know them deeper and more intimately is something that I have liked a lot. I will always say that the staff are one of the most beautiful parts of the Playa Viva experience, I see it every day when guests complete their check outs with me, guests reference team members by name and it is such a good reflection of the fac that our team enjoy making guests feel like they are at home. That is special. I believe that for our guests Playa Viva is not only about pretty rooms or a very important social impact project, but becomes meaningful to them because of the humility and heart that each member of the team puts into the hotel.

David: You said, “Playa Viva is much more than…” What else is Playa Viva for you?

Yara: Much more than just a nice hotel. It is community, it is family, friendship, it is… for example, as a worker, it is an opportunity. I feel that Playa Viva provides a platform for you to develop professionally, here you have the opportunity to share your ideas and for those ideas to be heard. I mention this because, for example, I am also a fashion designer and I sell my brand here at the hotel. I wasnt sure what to expect but luckily the guests love my clothes and give helpful feedback, the results I have seen have been unexpected and I can really see a development in my brand. I really appreciate having the opportunity to sell here because not everyone does, that makes me feel the support and trust of the leaders and the managers of the hotel. Having the opportunity to develop as a person, especially in the workplace is very positive.

David: How have you grown as a person in the two years you have been here?

Yara: I feel that I have developed on a personal level, but also on a professional level in a way that, honestly, I didn’t expect, because Playa Viva also makes you leave your comfort zone, it invites you to see beyond what you can do. The growth that I have had here has been very, very, very great.


David: In what sense?

Yara: Something that makes me feel very proud is the development of my English speaking abilities. I came here to Playa Viva barely speaking English, I had only done a 4 month intensive course and I remember perfectly that when I spoke with you, David, in an interview about the possibility of working here, that you asked me for a project proposal; by the way, I read that email recently and I said “Wow, I have fulfilled all those points that I said I would do;” but anyway, I arrived speaking almost no English and that was one of my goals to improve, I honestly didnt think it would be possible but today I feel much more confident to be able to express myself with it. Sure, I still make mistakes but it is a testament to our team and guests because they make me feel comfortable to be able to learn, make mistakes and I love when they correct me, every day I am learning. The Yara of 2 years ago is not the same as Yara now, all it took was the Playa Viva family to open the doors for me for me to continue growing and developing. When I took the role I didnt expect it to help my brand but with my improved English I have been able to attract more clients and an engaged audience of Playa Viva guests, and that has been very satisfying.

David: Playa Viva says it is a regenerative hotel? What is that? What have you learned about Regeneration in your 2 years here?

Yara: When my friends or acquaintances ask me about the hotel, I always talk about the whole sustainable part; from the solar panels to how we take care of the water not just in the hotel but in the entire watershed, and all the social impact we have in Juluchuca. I think that when I first heard about Playa Viva, I hadn’t understood all these amazing commitments, I just thought it was a beautiful hotel. Thanks to being in close contact with Ximena, who is in charge of the education node, Osmaira who manages the Women’s cooperative part, and Kerry, who has a background with “Regenerative Travel,” makes me see that something very important is being done to make change in this area. I have seen a growth in terms of support for the community, one example being the products that I sell here in the boutique, which are products that the Women’s Cooperative make. Just recently I was talking with Mayra, who is part of the women’s cooperative; I asked her if she really liked her job and she said yes, that she never imagined working in that field but now she cant imagine doing anything else, she loves the women she works with. Seeing how little by little they have grown makes me say “Ok”; I feel proud to know where I am working and the people who are a part of these projects; there are many things that I would like to understand more, for example how they do the study of the water basin from the mountains, so I can share more with our guests but from what I already understand I am proud to be able to confidently tell them that Playa Viva is much more than just a nice hotel.


David: Something I wanted to ask when you were talking about the piñata. Can you tell us about when you made the change from one piñata to another?

Yara: The piñatas that we have always had here at Playa Viva had been filled with the normal candy that comes wrapped in plastic wrappers, until a guest shared with us her sadness when she saw one of those plastic wrappers the next day in the sea. We had a talk between the kitchen, office, housekeeping and boutique in which she was involved, and from there we began to observe the areas where we we may not have thought about alternatives to plastic. Perhaps she thought her comment wasn’t important but I love how Playa Viva is always open to feedback, it makes us see where we can improve. From that day we committed to only offering plastic-free pinatas so they are instead stuffed with traditional sweets such as tamarinds wrapped in tamale leaves, nuts and fruits. We buy candies in bulk to make plastic-free pic n mix bags so no one is left too disappointed and the ocean is safe from unwanted plastic rubbish. 

David: How have you changed your habits because of working here?

Yara: I have become more conscious, especially in relation to how much plastic and trash I generate in my house, I can really notice that I have changed my consumption of single-use products. I am also more conscious of how much I consume, not only in material things, but also in solar and electric energy and I now separate the organic from the inorganic. It doesnt sound like much but we really are not taught about the importance of these things so it is nice to be an example for my friends and family.  

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