Through Pulitzer photog Don Bartletti’s lens

Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Don Barletti speaks to students at the Walter Stiern Library on Oct. 10/Jarad Mann, The Runner

California State University Bakersfield’s Walter Stiern Library Presents Program is exploring issues in immigration with a series of events through December. The series includes a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, a documentary screening, and a poetry reading. The prize-winning photographer, Don Bartlett of the Los Angeles Times, spent a lot of time visiting migrant camps around North County San Diego, including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Fallbrook, Valley Center and Escondido.

Here is some of what Bartlett had to say earlier this month about the experiences through coverage provided by Veronica Morley, features editor of CSUB’s The Runner newspaper. For more, visit

Don Bartletti

Don Bartletti worked as a photojournalist for over 40 years.

Thirty-two of those years have been spent with the LA Times where he took a special interest in immigration and the border crossing process.

In 2003, he won a Pulitzer Prize for the work he did documenting young Central American immigrant children crossing the border to find their parents in America.

His photostory “Enrique’s Journey” will be featured in the library until Dec. 19.

Bartletti said he gained an interest in immigration after the Mexico Peso was devalued in the early ‘80s.

After this, he began noticing more immigrants showing up on the streets in the northern agricultural areas of San Diego looking for day labor.

He then discovered the squatter camps.

“It was happening in my neighborhood, like never before,” he said. Bartletti shared that these camps were made of huts “often in view of million dollar mansions.”

During his years covering immigrants around the border and in San Diego, Bartletti received backlash from residents of San Diego county.

He witnessed a confrontation between a woman, who was a spokesperson for her condo complex, and a woman from the squatter camps.

“It was like two women screaming at each other, in their own languages, not understanding a damn thing,” he said.

Bartletti has remained objective throughout his presentation and in his work as a photojournalist.

His passion for his work derives from a foundation of producing an ethical report.

He said he wants to “get in deep where nobody else has gone. To be the eyes of our readers. I reveal the truth and the news.”

Describing an experience where he came across a migrant boy on top of a train in Veracruz, Bartletti said, “He’s frozen from that whole night. And he’s sucking in air. Have you ever seen a child cry so hard that they can’t get their breath?” said Bartletti, .

Bartletti rode on top of the trains alongside the migrants, jumping from car to car, collecting trash to make fires.

“This became the metaphor for children traveling to the United States. An indistinct horizon, there’s a curve ahead,” he said.

Bartletti crossed the Rio Grande River three times. He traveled to Honduras and witnessed the destruction caused by the gang Mara Salvatrucha.

He witnessed the funeral of a seven year old girl who was shot through the heart.

Her family allowed him to photograph them burying her.

He was so shaken by the sights he was unable to hold the camera still long enough to focus the photo

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