Jakelin Caal Maquin

Mother of Jakelin Caal Maquin in Raxruhá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Family in Raxruhà had given Jakelin her first pair of shoes for the journey north.

Claudia Marroquin stands in front of her home in Raxruhà, Alta Verpaz, Guatemala mourning her daughter, age seven, who died in a Texas hospital December 8, 2018, just 27 hours after being taken into custody by US border patrol agents. Claudia’s daughter Jakelin had crossed into the United States with her father Nery at the end of a 2,000-mile journey through Mexico. They were part of a group of 163 people, who had made it to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. CBP says border agents tried to save her once they were alerted to a problem. But the Washington Post reported that, while the family’s mother tongue is Q’eqchi’, a Mayan language, the interview with her father was conducted in Spanish.

Alta Verapaz doesn’t feel far away to me, having myself lived in a village not far from Raxruhà in 2000 as a human rights accompanier. And no place is far away anymore on our tiny planethome. But it is Claudia’s grief which draws me close, a mother’s grief, the depths of which have no borders of geography. I re-post my La Llorona poem from last August when the separation of families at the border came into public consciousness:

The Grief of La Llorona

Easy for a mother to grasp La Llorona,
despite each mean version in the myth
about her motives for ‘killing’ her children.
Every mother gives her children up.
The child she would give her life for
can never be retrieved from the river of time.
Every mother becomes
a Woman in White, endlessly crying.
She is the mother who asks,
*What is sorrow and what is not sorrow?
They are dead who do not weep.
The child divine become the suffering man,
and La Llorona, a living Pietá.
The flowers cry when she passes
and remembers her child
running to bring his Mama a bloom.
*Do not think because she sings
her heart is joyful. One also sings from pain.
If you see her weeping under a tamarind tree
or if you see her singing,
the Banshee ghost, the grieving mother,
know her haunting comes from being haunted.
I, too, wander riverbanks,
and notice every child who reminds me
of the beautiful boy who vanished
into the magnificent man.
The door of my heart always ajar
to the baby, the toddler, the child
who will never again walk through.
Every mother, La Llorona.

Every mother gives her children up.
But those whose children are ripped from their arms
at borders where they’re deemed illegal,
those whose children flee to find a better life,
whose sons and daughters ride the Beast train,
their mothers never knowing
if their children live or die;
not even the tears of La Llorona,
though vast as all the oceans,
can plumb the depth of grief these mothers suffer.
Every mother gives her children up, but these
who weep for children gone to ghosts,
these are the mothers who show us
La Llorona’s face today.

*from verses of the La Llorona song

In Lila Downs’ interpretation of the song, she compares the legendary La Llorona’s loss with the Spanish invasion of Mexico resulting in the demise of indigenous culture. In her 2001 album, Border, Downs dedicated the song to the spirits of Mexican migrants who have died crossing the line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVUmQZdLAfQ

A heart-shaped sign with the name of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin at her family house in Raxruhá,


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