Nowadays, when most people hear the name San Bernardino, they naturally think of the recent terrorist attack that took the lives of 14 people. If they don't think of that tragic day, they might think of how the horribly run city declared bankruptcy in 2012 (even before the much better know case of the City of Detroit declaring bankruptcy) and how the California city is still going through that process. If they know all that and even more, then they probably know the city's long-running reputation as one of the most neglected municipalities in the country, where astronomic levels of air pollution has left children from low-income families with asthma from years of breathing diesel exhaust from the freight trains and trucks that run nearby.
Two professors from the California State University, San Bernardino, are trying to repair that image through the use of poetry and photography. Poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern are trying to capture and show for the rest of the nation and the world the city they know, a "San Bernardino of exuberant Sunday morning swap meets, the one filled with hand-painted signs for butcher shops, groceries or western wear," writes The New York Times' Patricia Leigh Brown. "Its commercial street murals, largely adorning Latino businesses, extend the Mexican muralist tradition to urban precincts in a county that has the third largest percentage of Latino residents in the United States."
The pair published their poems and photos of the city in a 2013 book called Vital Signs, and showed them at a six-week public art projects last year, held in one of the abandoned stores downtown.