Before a fledgling anthropologist named Robert M. Laughlin arrived in rural Mexico in the late 1950s, the unspoken language of the native Tzotzil was passed down by word of mouth, generation after generation, in almost two millennia. By the time Laughlin, a Harvard graduate, appeared, the Tzotzil language had become closely associated with Spanish for the five centuries since the first conquerors landed.
Through years of rigorous fieldwork, Laughlin, who became curator of Mesoamerican ethnography at the Smithsonian Institution̵
7;s National Museum of Natural History, helped revive the language, rescuing it from Weakness in the terminal stage. It was the special achievement of a long career that made Laughlin highly regarded in his career before his death on May 28 of covid-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus.