The Death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, While in U.S. Border Patrol Custody
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The Death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, While in U.S. Border Patrol Custody


When thousands die in war their deaths become a statistic; when one dies out of negligence it is a tragedy. Jakelin Caal Maquin, a very young Guatemalan girl, just seven years old, began to show signs of sepsis shock near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry. Hours later, after being put on a bus to a Border Patrol station, she began vomiting and having difficulty breathing, and finally died December 8 at a hospital in El Paso, Texas. 

Jakelin Caal Maquin’s death is a death we should never forget. Her death is symbol of the indifference, the callousness, the cruelty that will be remembered as part of the official, legislated immigrant policies of the Federal Government of the United States of America, specifically, the Department of Homeland Security under the auspices of the Trump regime. 

There is a passage in the José Saramago novel, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, where the main character, a man named Ricardo Reis, says this about an émigré—“When a man emigrates, he thinks of the country where he might die as the country where he will spend the rest of his life, and that is the difference”. In the case of the young child Jakelin Caal Maquin, she did not have a chance, nor the opportunity to think philosophically about such matters, as to where she would die. Like her family, she was hungry and tired of the violence in the country into which they were fortunate or unfortunate to be born into, Guatemala.

Jakelin was especially close to her father. Inseparable, they said. And so she joined him on his journey to the North. As a child, like any child in the world, Jakelin wanted a happy childhood.  For now, that would be her life.  Maybe she wanted beautiful dolls, along with friends to play with in a schoolyard. Yes, let us think for a moment, what young Jakelin might have wanted as she trekked across the desert with her father and the others,  into the enclaves of New Mexico with her father to escape the insanity of violence that was destroying her country and her family.

 What might we ask ourselves, as we sit comfortably in our homes, condos, or apartments, flipping through the news on our smart-phones, tablets, and laptops,  as we read casually about the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin? Are we capable of actually thinking about the searing injustice of the young girl’s death?  After all, the Christmas holidays are forthcoming, gifts to purchase for our families, friends, the neighbors, perhaps even a small gift to buy for a young girl who lives in the neighborhood, someone who could even resemble in some way, Jakelin.

But wait, let us remind ourselves, we live in the United States, and charity begins at home, always at home, and that is why we have Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection to protects us from the ‘migrants’ who are actually emigrants running for their very lives. But then we become nervous and guilt begins to set in for us, because after all we are a country founded on the idea at least of welcoming the hungry, the homeless and those who are fleeing political or religious persecution.  

Let me not lecture here too much; instead, out of regard for restoring some sanity in this world, let me tell you, the readers, about the father of Jakelin, Nery Gilberto Caal, who told the Guatemalan Consul, Tekandi Paniagua, that the American agents did everything they possibly could to help and save his daughter’s life. Her father would go on to say in Q'eqchi', an indigenous Mayan language, that young Jakelin became sick on a bus traveling towards the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico enroute to a Border Patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico. There she became ill, vomiting and then showing signs of dehydration and shock.  After beginning to suffer seizures, she was flown to an El Paso hospital in west Texas, where she succumbed to the ravages of a cruel  and needlessly premature death.

And so I sit here in front of my laptop in the quiet of an empty living-room in wintry Vermont, thinking about the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.  I move onto other news links and I see and even hear on videos, the rage, as small as the rage is, taking place in protests… because we do know only too well how immigrant agents are doing, shall we say, ‘the dirty work’ for Trump and his regime in stopping asylum-seekers from coming into what is perceived by millions of Americans as the greatest country on earth, even during the Christmas holiday, especially, regardless of the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.

Finally, I stop reading the online news about the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, and I am compelled to write this poem about her passing… as if I had known the young girl myself…                             

                                   For Jakelin Caal Maquin,

        From Guatemala

                                   You died here among us, Jakelin,

                                   Your language Q’eqchi’, those great words

                                   among ancient jungles, among

                                   Mayan Gods, among things simple and humble,

                                   You speak again to us,

                                   Even in death.

                                   Poverty drove you and your family

                                   out of Alta Verapaz,

                                   Then death came for you,

                                   And you died in New Mexico,

                                   After fleeing drug dealers and hunger.


                                   In the Cahabòn River, 

                                   Where green Sumec Champey pools,

                                   Swirl in their eddies under the Sun,

                                   I think the Mayan Gods and your people,

                                   Will remember you, Jakelin,

                                   Even after the rest of us are long gone

                                   from this earth.

That is my answer. When I read on another Internet link those endlessly emotionless cyber-words online lacking even a whimper or sob, Jakelin's mother, Claudia Maquin, saying Jakelin dreamed of beginning a new life and being able to support her poor family back home in Raxruha, where she and her father had departed earlier this month of December. Jakelin's mother recalled, “"The girl said when she was grown up she was going to work and send 'dough' back to her mom and grandma. Because she had never seen a big country, she was really happy that she was going to go."”  Now we know that will never happen, and Jakelin's family very likely will go on being poor, while the Mayan Gods, if there are Mayan Gods, will remember Jakelin and her beautifully naive quest ending in futility, enshrouded in courage.  

Author: Luis Lázaro Tijerina