Jakelin Caal Maquin

Many of us know the world of Jakelin Caal Maquin because our children are from villages like hers in Alta Verapaz. Their families are Q’eqchi, K’iche, Kaqchikel, Ixil, Mam, Tz’utujil, Chuj, Garifuna. They struggle in ways hard for us to witness, much less understand: The daily walks to the public pila for clean drinking water, the scarcity of protein, the homes that get washed away during rainy season, the inability to attend school due to the need to work, the lack of jobs beyond subsistence farming, the absence of any viable and lasting opportunity.

I read this paragraph in the New York Times and almost weep:

On paper, Guatemala is not poor; the World Bank classifies it as an upper-middle income country. But those statistics mask profound inequalities, the legacy of centuries of racism and economic control by powerful groups that even now resist attempts to soften the sharp edges of the country’s systemic discrimination.

We see it when we visit: the endless, crushing, inescapable poverty that defines the lives of indigenous Guatemalans. We hear it from our families, who tell us their only chance for a better life is to leave the country they love.

When I read stories like Jakelin’s, I remember my grandparents, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Scotland and Ireland to America so their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would not go hungry and suffer the way they did. My father was the first of his strain of the O’Dwyer clan born on US soil. Today, I benefit from their brave sacrifices.

My heart breaks for the soul of Jakelin, for her mother and father, her siblings and cousins. Their family is my family. We are one.



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2 Responses to “Jakelin Caal Maquin”

  1. David Reardon says:

    Good morning Ms. O’Dwyer.

    I read your article in the SF Chronicle today really appreciate your reference to the coup against President Arbenz. I have yet to read your Blog which I just discovered but want to bring three more reference points to your attention; please forgive me if I am presumptuous: (1) the relationship of Guatemala and the United States has to be understood in the context of the Monroe Doctrine. (2) Google Amazon and you will find two books on the history of the banana, I forget which one I read but it describes the relationship of the Arbenz government to the United Fruit Company. (3) My paternal grandfather came from Doune, Scotland to establish our family on the land where the treatment of indigenous people, culture, villages and life by the US Army, the US Government and US/European settlers was very similar to that received by the indigenous Guatemalan people in/on their homeland.

    I think the main contradiction here is European colonialism and US Imperialism.

    Once again thank you for tour article and calling our attention to Jakelin.
    We too are adoptive parents and will certainly check out your blog.

    David Reardon

  2. Jessica says:

    Good morning and thank you for commenting, Mr. Reardon.

    I believe the book you’re referencing is “Bitter Fruit,” by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer. A brilliant and really shocking overview that shifted my understanding. I haven’t read the other yet, but will.

    You are so right about the treatment of indigenous peoples on our own soil. That’s another very large subject that deserves a deeper treatment than my short essay. But yes, absolutely.

    Thank you for finding my blog. I have a FB page, “Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir,” on which I regularly post adoption- and Guatemala-related thoughts and articles.

    Happy holidays to you and yours!

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