SAN ANTONIO SECORTEZ, Guatemala – Residents of this remote indigenous community in northern Guatemalan gathered Christmas Eve to mourn the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died Dec. 8 in the custody of the US Border Patrol.
The evangelical religious service, including prayer and song, came hours after the SUV carrying her remains arrived in San Antonio Secortez from Guatemala City.
Here, in a humble wooden house with a thatched roof, the white coffin is surrounded by relatives and neighbors bidding good-bye to little Jakelin.
Nery Caal, her father, remains in the United States awaiting a hearing on his request for asylum.
The father and daughter were among a group of more than 160 migrants who entered US territory from Mexico in early December and surrendered to Border Patrol agents.
Nery, 29, told the agents his daughter was sick and by the time the bus carrying them reached a holding facility, Jakelin had a fever of 40.9 C (105.7 F).
The child was airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died.
Outside the wake, Jakelin’s grandfather, Domingo Caal, put up a handwritten sign expressing gratitude to the media, to Guatemalan and US officials and to the mayor of the nearby town of Raxruha, for their help in returning the girl’s remains.
Claudia Maquin, Jakelin’s 27-year-old mother, must contend not only with her grief but with taking care of the couple’s three other children – ages 5, 9 and 6 months – while hoping that Nery can stay in the US, get a job and begin sending money home.
Jakelin Caal was to be laid to rest Christmas Day.