A tragic journey home: migrant girl’s body back in Guatemala

SAN ANTONIO SECORTEZ, Guatemala — The tiny white coffin with the body of the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died while in U.S. custody ended its heartbreaking journey home in the pre-dawn hours Monday in a tiny hamlet 220 miles north of the capital.

The death of Jakelin Caal earlier this month while in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol was a tragic reminder of the plight of Central American migrants as they traverse dangerous routes to seek asylum in the U.S., and came as Americans are deeply divided over U.S. President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration.

Villagers wept and watched curiously as the coffin arrived at the home of Jakelin’s grandparents in San Antonio Secortez, where relatives had set up a small wooden altar flanked by vases and overflowing with flowers, photographs of the child and the hand-lettered message, “We miss you.” The girl’s mother, Claudia Maquin, closed her eyes and uttered a deep moan when confronted with her daughter’s body, then covered her face and cried.

Behind the house, dozens of women prepared tamales and beans to feed mourners.

The village of about 420 people has no paved streets, running water or electricity, and residents say declining crop yields and lack of work have pushed many in the community to emigrate in recent years. Before the body arrived, it was taken by a procession to nearby communities where locals donated money and grain to the grieving family.

Domingo Caal, the girl’s grandfather, told The Associated Press that the family couldn’t afford to travel to the capital to meet the coffin there when it first landed in Guatemala’s capital.

The girl and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, had been travelling with a group of 163 migrants who were arrested Dec. 6 near a border crossing in New Mexico. The father signed an English-language form stating Jakelin was in good health, but it remains unclear whether he understood what it said.

Hours later, a bus carrying the two left the Antelope Wells port of entry for the Lordsburg station, roughly 90 minutes away. By then, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement, Jakelin’s temperature had reached 105.7 degrees Fahrenheit (40.9 degrees Celsius). Emergency medical technicians had to revive her.

She was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died the next day.

Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marta Larra said the ministry had sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. State Department asking for it to monitor the case and determine the cause of death.

Domingo Caal said his son has a Jan. 3 court date in the United States to determine his migratory status.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More than 400 COVID-19 cases reported in Alberta Wednesday, according to multiple reports. (File photo)
Over 400 additional COVID-19 cases Wednesday

3,372 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta

A 47-megawatt solar power project has been proposed for a site southwest of the Nova Chemicals petrochemical complex.
Map contributed
$52-million solar power project proposed for Joffre

Project to be built southwest of Nova Chemicals plant could be producing power by the end of 2021

AnnaMarie Lea, artistic director of Lacombe’s Cow Patti Theatre, thinks a lot of people would love to focus on something other than the pandemic, with a few hours of entertainment. (Contributed photo).
Some Red Deer-area shows will go on — with new pandemic precautions

Some theatrical productions are happening under new rules

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer will be at the legislature Thursday to urge members of the UCP caucus to drop the plan to consolidate EMS dispatch by Jan. 4. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer mayor takes EMS consolidation fight to Edmonton

Mayors of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Calgary and Wood Buffalo to address UCP caucus on Thursday

Harold Lehmann, 91, used a stationary bike to cycle 24,900 miles over the past two years. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer senior uses stationary bike to cycle distance of world

Harold Lehmann cycled 24,900 miles over the course of two years

Officials in Toronto and Montreal strike differing tones on COVID-19 in their cities

Officials in Toronto and Montreal strike differing tones on COVID-19 in their cities

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Feds say 100,000 rapid COVID-19 tests have arrived, being distributed to provinces

Feds say 100,000 rapid COVID-19 tests have arrived, being distributed to provinces

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

FILE - In this file March 18, 2020, file phootom one of the normally bustling entrances to the Disneyland resort is vacant due to the coronavirus closure in Anaheim, Calif. State health officials announced strict new rules for reopening theme parks on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, attractions spanning from Disneyland to Universal Studios are now bracing for an even longer shutdown, and so are the surrounding communities lined with hotels, restaurants and shops devoted to visitors who no longer walk their streets. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
California theme park closures hit jobs, shops, budget

California theme park closures hit jobs, shops, budget

This combination photo shows Meg Whitman at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Breakfast Gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 11, 2019, left, and Jeffrey Katzenberg at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 19, 2020. Katzenberg and Whitman are bringing Quibi to a phone near you with movies, shows and news served in quick bites. (AP Photo)
Short-video app Quibi shutting down just months after launch

Short-video app Quibi shutting down just months after launch

WestJet self service check-in kiosks are seen at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, on Friday, July 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
WestJet to refund some passengers whose flights were cancelled because of COVID-19

WestJet to refund some passengers whose flights were cancelled because of COVID-19

Statistics Canada building and signs are pictured in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
StatCan says annual inflation rate rose 0.5% in September

StatCan says annual inflation rate rose 0.5% in September

Most Read