Jan. 15, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Customized Coca-Cola bottles displaying the name “Jakelin” are currently being sold at a Williamsburg bodega in memory of the 7-year-old who died in U.S. custody late last year.
Jakelin Caal Maquin died of dehydration and liver failure in December hours after she and her father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, walked across the U.S. border at New Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The 7-year-old and her father, from Guatemala, were among 163 migrants who turned themselves in to border patrol on the night of Dec. 6.
The agency, which began transporting the group by bus to another Border Patrol station later that evening, said Jakelin was not breathing upon arrival at the station on Dec. 7, and had been vomiting along the way.
The young girl was then revived twice, and later airlifted to a children’s hospital in El Paso, when she died shortly after midnight the following day.
Customs and Border Protection said it was not to blame for Jakelin’s death, and instead stressed the dangers posed in crossing the border unlawfully. It added that Nery had signed a form after crossing the border that stated his daughter was in good health.
Nery’s lawyer, meanwhile, said the English-language form he was made to sign was in a language he didn’t understand, and disputed other facets of the agency’s account.
At the time of Jakelin’s death, which sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, especially against the Trump administration, a group of Brooklyn creatives by the name Conquistadores had already been trying to think of something they could do to address tensions surrounding migrants at the southern border and help refugees there.
“When we heard the news of Jakelin, the course of things changed,” a spokesperson for the group said. “Some of us are parents, it’s obvious the news touched us in a different way.”
The group, comprised of Latino writers, designers and photographers Lauren Alarcon, Mauricio Alarcon, Mariliana Arévalo and Lupe Chang, decided to order 40 customized Coke bottles with Jakelin’s name on them and sell them to raise awareness for Border Angels, a robust nonprofit organization focused on migrant rights and the prevention of immigrant deaths along the U.S./Mexico border.
The group of Brooklynites spoke with several bodega owners in the area, but ultimately decided to partner with South Side Grocery Corp, also known as Los Sures Mini Market, at 163 S 4th St.
The bodega is owned by Faustino Quezada, who is an immigrant himself.
“We met Faustino Quezada and it all made sense,” the group’s spokesperson said. “Since the first second, he was open to help and display the bottles.”
The bottles, which cost $5 each to personalize, went on sale on Dec. 22, and are being sold for $1.50—a fraction of the price.
The group said some bottles in its “Jakelin Coke” campaign still remain on the shelves, with 90 percent of proceeds going to Border Angels.
In addition to the bottle campaign, the group has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the nonprofit, and has reached $441 of their $1,000 goal as of press time.
The campaign, which was not officially affiliated with Coca-Cola, will be a one time event, the group said.
“Only if Coke gets involved, the plan could work nationally,” the spokesperson said.
The group hopes that its awareness efforts and fundraising will be able to play a part in changing the rhetoric surrounding immigrants at the southern border.
“Our small actions are devoted to help build a country for our children we can all be proud of,” the spokesperson said.