Annually in the vast migration that’s changing the face of America, 1000’s of Central Americans attempt a harrowing 1,500-mile journey through the length of Mexico on the tops of freight trains.
Nearly all are visited by cruelty, hunger and fatigue. Stowaways call the unscheduled train they run to catch, “La Bestia” or The Beast. Some are maimed or killed by the iron wheels. In the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mara Salvatrucha gangsters, corrupt law enforcement officers and opportunist citizens hunt them like animals. By contrast, in the state of Veracruz trackside residents throw gifts of food, water and clothing to migrants as the train passes by.
Among these migrants are children as young as 12 who travel alone. Most are trying to find parents – usually mothers - who left them behind years ago to work in the United States. For children, the dream of reunification becomes the quest for the Holy Grail. Success comes only to the brave and the lucky.
Don Bartletti retired in late 2015 after a 32-year photojournalism career at the Los Angeles Times and a combined10 years prior to that with the Union/Tribune, the Oceanside Blade Tribune and The Vista Press. He has been a resident of Vista since 1961 where he and his wife Diana make their home. Don has 2 grown children and 4 grandsons.
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