San Jose El Rodeo, Guatemala – Rafael* fought again tears as he searched for words to describe his high-quality friend, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, who died in US custody on Monday.

“He became like my brother,” Rafael told Al Jazeera, sitting together with his classmates in San Jose El Rodeo, an indigenous Maya Achi village 73km north of Guatemala City.

The boys have been born at some point aside and would have both celebrated their seventeenth birthdays next week. But after Hernandez Vasquez left to are looking for paintings in the United States to help aid his family, he fell unwell and died rapidly after crossing the border.

“I in no way imagined that this will take place to my first-rate pal, my brother,” Rafael stated.

“We loved to play soccer,” he recalled. “When we had time inside the afternoon, we would say ‘let’s visit the sector.'”

Hernandez Vasquez was the fifth Guatemalan baby to die in US custody in the past six months, elevating further alarm over conditions facing migrants and asylum seekers at the US border.

The Maya Achi teenager become observed unresponsive on Monday in a border patrol facility in Weslaco, Texas. He has been given the medicinal drug for flu-like signs and symptoms at some stage in his week in custody after crossing into America from Mexico however changed into now not hospitalized.


On Tuesday, the border government temporarily stopped intake on the McAllen processing center because of an endemic of high fever and other flu-like signs and symptoms among detainees. Hernandez Vasquez has been detained and processed on the McAllen facility prior to his transfer to Weslaco. Regular operations at McAllen resumed on Wednesday, officials said.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, the Customs and Border Patrol Office of Professional Responsibility and the Weslaco Police Department are investigating the incident, a CBP spokesperson informed Al Jazeera in an email on Thursday.

‘I noticed others at the information. I didn’t think it would take place to me’

Hernandez Vasquez become in true health whilst he left in April, in line with his buddies and circle of relatives. They now be a part of different grieving households around Guatemala.

Seven-12 months-vintage Jakelin Caal died of a bacterial infection in early December 2018 after traveling to the US together with her father. Eight-year-vintage Felipe Gomez Alonzo died on Christmas Eve of a flu infection. Juan de Leon Gutierrez, 16, travelled to america after his circle of relatives experienced years of hassle because of an ongoing drought. He died on April 30. Two-year-antique Wilmer Ramirez died earlier this month after spending weeks in medical institution.

Ten-12 months-vintage Stephanie Velazquez, additionally from Guatemala, died in Mexican immigration custody this month. And 10-year-old Darlyn Valle from El Salvador died in US custody remaining September, however her death turned into now not made public until earlier this week while it changed into first reported through CBS News.

“I saw other households on the information, but I never thought it would take place to me,” Hernandez Vasquez’s father, Bartolome, told Al Jazeera.

Known affectionately via many as “Gollito”, a diminutive nickname for Gregorio, Hernandez Vasquez became the second-youngest of 9 kids. The family has no farmland in their personal, so Bartolome supported his family through running in fields owned with the aid of other citizens.

A framed photograph of the youngster sat subsequent to a votive candle and vegetation out of doors the circle of relatives home. Neighbours and family stopped via with greetings and condolences even as Bartolome spoke approximately his son.

“He loves music,” stated Bartolome, speakme of his son inside the gift annoying, as many within the network nonetheless do. “He is the only who performs bass in church.”

His son additionally performed the piano, drums, and different devices. Music is a shared ardour within the own family. When Bartolome mentioned that Hernandez Vasquez’s older brother Edgar additionally plays the piano, he got here out to sign up for his dad on the porch, smiling and buzzing a music.

Edgar is one of the motives Hernandez Vasquez left for the US. The 18-year-old has unique needs and requires more care and attention. His younger brother desired to assist aid his dad and mom who look after him.

Hernandez Vasquez “has continually been very being concerned”, Rene Teletor, a family friend, instructed Al Jazeera.

Teletor, 26, got here to understand the teen well thru their shared love of song. Teletor is part of a community marimba band that performs at nearby birthdays, weddings, and gatherings, and every so often they would ask Hernandez Vasquez to enroll in them.

“Music is in his blood,” Teletor advised Al Jazeera. “He plays nearly all of the instruments.”

Extreme poverty
San Jose El Rodeo is a near-knit network, however there are few opportunities for work outside of subsistence agriculture. For those with out land of their own, agricultural labour pays simplest $4.50 an afternoon and there isn’t always continually paintings.

“It isn’t always enough to cowl the fundamental value of living,” stated Teletor, who migrated to the USA on the lookout for work earlier this 12 months but changed into detained and speedy deported back to Guatemala from McAllen, Texas.

Hilda Ramirez, a nearby first grade trainer, estimates at the least 25 adolescents have migrated to the USA during the last few years from San Jose El Rodeo, home to a few thousand people.

“Some have a want emigrate due to the extreme poverty that impacts the village,” she informed Al Jazeera. “Many teenagers embark on the journey out of necessity.”

Hernandez Vasquez and his high-quality pal Rafael have been of the few students to hold on to middle school. Rafael is on track to complete the equal of ninth grade this yr, and hopes to be one of the very few to continue his education beyond that.

Hernandez Vasquez graduated from 9th grade in 2017, before his ill-fated journey searching for paintings in the US, where one in every of his older brothers lives and works.

More than something else, their father Bartolome desires to be able to carry his 16-year-vintage son’s body home for burial as soon as feasible.

“I am right here with that ache,” stated Hernandez. “It kind of breaks the thoughts to be considering it a lot.”