To bid farewell to Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the eight-year-old migrant boy who died in the care of the United States in a New Mexico hospital on Christmas Eve, villagers from Villagers in this remote indigenous community of western Guatemala organized a candlelight vigil, covered his little white coffin with flowers.
The hamlet, situated in a plain and surrounded by misty mountains covered with pines, is a place of extreme poverty and lack of opportunity, sheltering a single small school, impassible dirt roads during the rainy season and rudimentary houses without insulation, good floor, water or electricity.
The community is populated by families who fled to Mexico during the bloodiest years of the Guatemalan civil war from 1960 to 1996, but returned after the signing of the peace agreement.
It was extreme poverty and lack of opportunity that led Felipe's father, Agustin Gomez, to leave for the United States with the boy, the family said. Other members of the community had been able to cross the US border with children, so he thought they would have the same chance. Felipe was chosen because he was the eldest son.
Felipe and Agustin were apprehended by the US Border Patrol in mid-December. After almost a week of detention, the boy developed a cough, fever and started to vomit. Authorities in New Mexico said an autopsy showed Felipe had the flu.
He was the second Guatemalan migrant child to die in the United States custody in December, raising concern over poor detention conditions in places of detention.