Photography & VideoPhotography

2003 Pulitzer finalist - Feature Photography

2003 Pulitzer: Feature Photography

Don Bartletti - For his memorable portrayal of how undocumented Central American youths, often facing deadly danger, travel north to the United States.

Back to main Pulitzer page In the vast migration that is changing the US, a Honduran boy rides a freight through Mexico. Each year thousands of undocumented Central Americans stow away for 1,500 miles on the tops and sides of trains. Some are parents desperate to escape poverty. Many are children in search of a parent who left them behind long ago. Only the brave and the lucky reach their goal. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Buzzards and children compete for scraps at the Tegucigalpa, Honduras, landfill. Boys scavenge for anything they can eat or sell. Northbound freight trains through Mexico are crowded with Hondurans fleeing poverty and in search of work or a relative in the U.S. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Elio Trujillo Martinez, 13, works for tips in an outdoor market in Tegucigalpa, hauling goods in a handmade wheelbarrow. Independence comes at an early age in impoverished Honduras. Each year the country loses thousands of children who flee to the United States in search of parents who left them behind. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Richard Alberto Funez waves a toy pistol and acts like a tough guy, to the amusement of his buddy, Alexis Joel Sanchez. In Richard's other hand is a soda can full of glue. Both ten-year-old orphans are addicted to the fumes. They roam Tegucigalpa to scavenge food and beg for money. Local outreach volunteers say many street urchins were left behind by a parent who went to the U.S. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Teenage boys peer out of a jail cell crowded with stowaways captured in Chiapas, Mexico. Next stop, deportation to the Guatemala border. Many undocumented Central Americans make numerous attempts to reach the U.S. border aboard freight trains. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Some migrants cross the Suchiate River on the Guatemala-Mexico border on crude rafts like this one being hauled out on the Mexican side. Here in the state of Chiapas, undocumented Cental American migrants are hunted by authorities and gangsters with equal ferocity. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Undocumented Central Americans crowd the tops of freight train cars in Mexico. They will be treated as lawbreaking foreigners if caught, but cargo rail lines have become a major passageway north to the U.S. border. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Even pauses on the trek are filled with risk as a twelve-year-old makes a daredevil leap from one freight care to another. He hopes to eventually reach San Diego, where his mother is working.( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Clinging to the top of a speeding freight train migrants duck under dangerously close tree branches. Honduran stowaways call the migration route through Mexico "the beast" for its life-threatening hazards. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Clinging on to the end of a speeding boxcar, Santo Antonio Gamay, 25, shows the fatigue of 15 hours riding a freight train. He's minutes from leaping off and in an attempt to outrun Mexican immigration authorities at the Tonala, Chiapas checkpoint. The Honduran has been arrested 3 times there and deported to the Guatemala border. He wants to go to Toronto, Canada. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Groupo Beta undercover police agents grab a youth near an immigration checkpoint in Chiapas, Mexico. Along the rail line, Beta agents pursue robbers who prey upon hapless migrants. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Twelve-year-old Dennis Ivan Contrares, two weeks out of Honduras, has only his mother's San Diego phone number to go on. After a fitful night on the northbound Mexican freight he says his dreams are always the same: "find mama, go to school, learn English and help other children. I would help the street children because I walk the streets and they die in the streets." ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

A Honduran teenager wearing a school backpack gets a toehold on a moving freight train in Vera Cruz, Mexico. To avoid authorities, migrants hide until the train picks up speed. The dangerous tactic increases the chance of slipping on the gravel or falling under the wheels. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Carlos Roberto Diaz Osorto, 17, lies on a hospital bed in Arriaga, Mexico, with his parents at his side. Carlos slipped beneath the wheels of a tank car that severed his left leg and crushed his right foot. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

In the Chiapas, Mexico countryside, a boy and girl race their horse alongside a freight train. The fleeting scene brought a few moments of joy to young Honduran stowaways who have learned to fear the worst from people along the rails. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

A northbound freight glides through the verdant landscape in Vera Cruz. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

The hands of Central American migrants and those of Mexicans passing them food meet as a train passes through Fortin de las Flores, Mexico. The simple generosity of the poor residents along the tracks through Vera Cruz state is legendary among train-riding stowaways. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Dawn breaks near Mexico City, and teenage travelers huddle next to burning scraps of clothing and trash. Dressed as they were when they left tropical Honduras weeks ago, they were unprepared for the cold nights in the mountains. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

With hundreds of miles of rail travel behind them, Honduran migrants slumber by the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Migrants often stall here; U.S. Border Patrol agents across the river in Texas thwart many attempts to enter the U.S. illegally. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

With his car-washing bucket by his head, Honduran migrant Enrique, 17, spends the night in an abandoned house in Nuevo Laredo. He has been working on the streets for weeks struggling to save enough to make a $5 telephone call to his mother in the U.S. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

After a trip on the rails through the length of Mexico, two Central American youths slip quietly into the Rio Grande. Seventy-five yards across the murky river is their long-sought dream: the United States. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

Reunited after seven years, Enrique and his mother embrace in North Carolina. "This is my son," she says. "It's a miracle he's here." Enrique survived three months on the rails to reach her. Experts estimate that 48,000 children from Central America and Mexico enter the U.S. each year illegally and without either of their parents. ( Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times )

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