The History of San Juan Mission

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Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano

Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano has proofed its significance since I was able to learn that it was founded by Father Fermin Lasuen on October 30, 1775, in honor of Saint John of Capistrano from Italy. The Mission is fascinating since it has been in existence for approximately 240 years, and has hosted many people throughout its period of existence. The information offered at the mission during my trip impacted me with some knowledge that helped me understand that the current visitors as well as the previous inhabitants of this region are the main generators of the fame awarded to this place because it is considered to be a place that is rich in religion, history and culture. Lessons on how Mission San Juan Capistrano owes its founding to Junipero Serra, and also its stratification at position seven among all the 21 missions that were established in the Californian region by Spanish settlers expounded my knowledge on the mission significantly. The mission, despite its initial kick off on October 1775, had to halt its mission, as it was disrupted by a war party termed as Kumeyaay, which destroyed the mission in November 1775. Priests from the mission were escorted to San Diego by the soldiers after they were ordered to return to San Diego to back up the garrison; this information was disappointing to me as it was demonstrated.

History of San Juan Capistrano

Another discovery I made about the history of San Juan Capistrano during the trip was that the mission’s main purpose was to increase Spain’s territorial boundaries as well as ensuring that California’s natives were awakened on Christianity. The Spanish reign utilized the presidios and missions as tools that were used in spreading their rule, as they were used as assimilation agents, through luring the natives to becoming members of the Catholic denomination, promising them those lessons on Spanish village way of living and agricultural practices. The aim was to make the natives subject to the Spanish rule by manipulating them into self sustaining beings, with the presidios ensuring that the missions were free from external threats and attacks from the natives, and also guarding the Spanish territory against invaders like the Europeans and the Russians. Through the formation of Mission San Juan Capistrano, Acjachemen, the native community in the region of its establishment experienced various alterations in their livelihood.

Impact on Natives and Spanish Settlers

My visit to the mission had its substantial benefits altogether, in that, I was able to travel to the southern region of Orange County, which is the main location of Mission San Juan Capistrano, a place that is considered to have been the gate pass for the Spanish settlers as per the narration. The Spanish, as I was narrated to, are believed to have altered the lives of the natives in the region, when new products such as food, animals, ideas, clothing and technology were shipped into this region. Indigenous people in California were forced to evacuate their homesteads in search of new food sources and left their land for the missions, since their land was already tampered with from the Spanish acts of suppressing their indigenous animals and plants through the introduction and multiplication of mules, sheep, oxen and horses leaving their terrain barren of all indigenous crops. Historians affirm that the Mission was manifested by germs; therefore, by the villagers deciding to seek shelter there would mean exposure to germs. Estimates of approximately 65,000 Natives were residing in the Californian coastal region by 1770; however, by 1830, the population had subsidized to 17,000 persons in the region, illustrating the effects of the Spanish rule.

Decline and Restoration

The experience here never seized to amaze me, especially when I was being fed with historical data about the mission, which made me discover how the year 1812 marked a new era, since it was the beginning of the decline of the Mission, contributed by various factors such as the earthquake that occurred on December 1812, leading to the collapse of the Great Stone Church, hike in the rate of mortality due to diseases, and also the lack of proper protection as well as supply to the Missions with the goods required for their continued living. Continued decline was faced by the Mission in 1821, when Mexico achieved independence from the Spanish colonists, making California a Mexican territory, therefore subjecting it under a newly formed government. The Mission was later converted to a private ranch after it was sold to John Forster at auction by Governor Pio Pico, his brother-in-law in 1845; it was used by the Forster’s family as a private ranch for 20 years. Father John O’Sullivan’s visit to San Juan Capistrano Mission in 1910 marked a new beginning for the Mission since he started rebuilding the Mission after evaluating its condition at the time and seeking permission from the people responsible, who gladly granted him.

The Story of the Swallows

The narrations from the locals in this region enabled me to also understand how the process was not that flawless for Father John O’Sullivan, as he had to trade parts of the building that was ruined with new materials, and also had to hire laborers from Mexico, until he was able to see his success in 1918, when he was granted permission to officially launch it to the public as a live church once again. Swallows’ annual migrations on October 23 to the south and their return journey on March 19 are among the generators of the popularity of San Juan Capistrano Mission. The migrations of the swallows are believed by legends to be a representation of an escape from an innkeeper who continuously damaged their habitat. The eaves of the buildings is where the swallows lay their nests while in San Juan Capistrano Mission on their arrivals in groups, with their nests being mainly composed of saliva and mud. Petitions were raised when California was crowned as a state in 1850 by John Alemay, who was the Catholic bishop of California, challenging the United States government to surrender the lands and buildings that belonged to the Missions.

Preservation and Cultural Significance

The missions have attracted the interest of various visionaries, photographers and artists since the 1870s, with lots of the local leaders getting in the restoration campaigns. San Juan Capistrano Mission, with its current utilization as a destination that is rich and diverse in culture, still serves as a significant location where worship and learning activities take place. The mission proves its significance in the region, since it is a landmark that acts as a tourist attraction for the Californians. The experience to this place was magnificent such that I will not mind travelling to this region one more time, considering the diverse cultural practices implemented by the natives there.

Work Cited

Boscana, Geronimo. Chinigchinich: a revised and annotated version of Alfred Robinson's translation of Father Gerónimo Boscana's historical account of the belief, usages, customs, and extravagancies of the Indians of this mission of San Juan Capistrano called the Acagchemem Tribe. Vol. 3. Malki Museum Press, Morongo Indian Reservation, 1933.

Engelhardt, Zephyrin. San Juan Capistrano Mission. Standard printing Company, 1922.

Jackson, Robert Howard. Indian population decline: the missions of northwestern New Spain, 1687-1840. University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Wright, Ralph B., ed. California's Missions. California Mission Trails Assn., 1950.

November 13, 2023


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