With the beautiful autumn colors fading away here in New England as we write this, we wish the same were true for the Coronavirus already. 2020 has delivered some hard blows to many of us, personally and professionally. At the Maya Educational Foundation (MEF), we have lost three very close and dear friends this year: Vincent Phillips, Robert Laughlin, and Narciso Cojtí.
Vincent Phillips called me some years ago and said: “Nobody seems to care about Guatemala anymore as they did in the 1980s.” In his retirement years, still working pro bono in a community health clinic that served many Central American immigrant families in Tacoma, Washington, he gave talks about Guatemala and the Mayas, trying to interest the public. He expressed how glad he was to have found us at MEF doing the work we’re doing in support of Maya people in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. He became a loyal supporter and friend. For some words in his memory, see this In Memoriam piece by the University of Washington.
Robert Laughlin is legendary and, following his passing at the end of May, some in-depth pieces about his life and indigenous language work in Chiapas appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He and his wife Miriam for many years have supported MEF scholarship programs for Maya students and our partner nonprofits FOMMA and Sna Jtz’ibajom in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
Narciso Cojtí was an eminent linguist in Guatemala and worked to promote the Kaqchikel language and to foster respect for indigenous peoples and their beliefs. See an article about him in Prensa Libre. We are glad to have known Vincent, Bob, and Narciso as friends of MEF and will honor them every day through our work of supporting educational opportunities for Maya people.