San Juan Capistrano, California, is a village of a little over 34,000 peoples, a diverse population, located in south Orange County and bisected by Interstate 5. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.3 square miles. 14.1 square miles of it is land and 0.1 square miles of it is water. The widest variety of homes in Orange County, including those built prior to 1900 in its central district (some being adobes from the 18th century), a number of 10-million-dollar homes in the gated communities of the hills, and working ranches in its foothills are found in San Juan Capistrano.
It surrounds the site of a Catholic mission for which it is named, Mission San Juan Capistrano. When the Mission was founded in 1776, the region was populated by a band of Native Americans. The mission was named after Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456), a Franciscan saint. Because it was created around the mission, many of the homes and businesses resemble the Spanish architecture that composes the mission’s building.
The city is the site of California’s oldest residential neighborhood, Los Rios. It is also the home of the oldest in-use building in California, the Serra Chapel in the Mission. The area was the site of both the first vineyard and first winery in California.When you hear about San Juan Capistrano, you often hear about the “Return of the Swallows.” San Juan Capistrano formerly hosted a population of cliff swallows that reputedly migrated each year from Argentina to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The protected birds are reputed to return from migration, traditionally originating in the town of Goya, Argentina, on St. Joseph‘s Day (March 19) each year, a day celebrated by the city’s annual Swallows’ Day Parade and other festive events such as the old west 1890s style melodrama at the Camino Real Playhouse starring San Juan’s Villain-at-Large Professor Mack. The swallows are reputed to leave on October 23, the former feast day of St. John of Capistrano. The 1940 hit song “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano“, written by Leon René, is a love song centering on these annual events.