SAN ANTONIO SECORTEZ, Guatemala — The tiny white coffin carrying the body of the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died while in US custody ended its somber journey home in the pre-dawn hours Monday in a dusty hamlet 220 miles north of the capital.
Villagers wept and watched curiously as the body arrived at the home of Jakelin Caal’s grandparents in San Antonio Secortez, where relatives had set up a modest 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 moaned deeply. Reaching into the coffin, she caressed the child’s hair, which was decorated with a white diadem. As the heartbreaking reality appeared to set in, the 27-year-old covered her face and cried.
White balloons hung from the wooden rafters, some with handwritten messages such as ‘‘We love you Jakelin.’’
Jakelin’s death earlier this month while in the custody of the US Border Patrol was a tragic reminder of the plight of Central American migrants as they make the dangerous voyage through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States. It also came as Americans are deeply divided over President Trump’s crackdown on immigration.
The child’s tragic journey began and ended in the village of about 420 people with no paved streets, running water or electricity. Its residents say declining crop yields and lack of work have pushed many in the community to emigrate in recent years.
Relatives plan to bury Jakelin on Christmas Day. The family worries about her father, who went into debt to pay a smuggler for passage to the US border.