A Brooklyn Bodega Is Selling ‘Jakelin’ Coke Bottles to Honor a Child Who Died in U.S. Custody

Local creatives hope to raise funds and attention

Creative collective Conquistadors worked with South Side Grocery Corp. to stock custom-ordered 'Jakelin' bottles. Conquistadors
Headshot of David Griner

Coca-Cola bottles have become well known in recent years for the wide variety of names found on their labels, and the brand has even empowered fans to order their own custom-printed names. Now a group of New York creatives is using that offering to spread awareness of a heartbreaking story from the U.S. border.

The Williamsburg bodega South Side Grocery Corp. is currently selling dozens of Coke bottles labeled “Jakelin”, named in memory of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin from Guatemala.

After a 2,000-mile journey to the U.S. southern border, Jakelin and her father crossed into the country illegally via New Mexico as part of a large group in December. Shortly after the two were detained, she began showing signs of extreme illness, and two days later she died in U.S. custody. Her death, which loved ones said could have been prevented by more immediate medical attention, sparked outcry from critics of Donald Trump’s strict policies on immigrants and asylum seekers, while some administration officials said it highlighted the dangers of attempting to enter the country illegally.

New York creative collective Conquistadors wanted to help raise awareness of Jakelin’s death and the humanitarian issues around those trying to cross into the United States by ordering 40 custom-made “Jakelin” bottles from Coca-Cola’s online store. The bottles, which cost $5 each to produce, were then stocked at South Side Grocery and sold at the shop’s usual Coke price of $1.50, with 90 percent of proceeds going to the nonprofit group Border Angels.

The project is not endorsed by or affiliated with Coca-Cola in any way, organizers are quick to note.

“We live in a world where brands leave social tools in the hands of people, and it’s the society that decides whatever they want to do with them,” says Mauricio Alarcon, an Ecuadorian advertising executive who migrated to the United Sates in 2006 and founded Conquistadors.

Clearly the guerrilla awareness concept isn’t an effective fundraiser on its own, since the custom-made bottles are sold at a loss. But Alarcon and others involved in the project, including designer Gabi Guiard and writer Lauren Alarcon, hope that it will spark donations to refugee aid groups—and inspire other bodegas to stock similar bottles.

A GoFundMe has been set up by the “Jakelin Cokes” team with a goal of raising $1,000 for Border Angels.

Here are some photos taken by Conquistadors showing supporters of the initiative in their Brooklyn community:

Photography credit: Mariliana Areìvalo and Lupe Chang. 

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."