San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano is 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 the Acjachemen band of Native Americans, called Juaneños by the Spanish. The mission was named after Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456), the Franciscan saint from Capestrano, in the Italian region of Abruzzo.
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.
The swallows of Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano is also famous for its cliff swallows. 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 and old west 1890s style Melodrama at the Camino Real Playhouse starring San Juan's Villain at Large Professor Mack played by Gary McCarver of The New Home for American Melodrama. 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.
The city is served by Capistrano Unified School District. In the 2007–2008 academic year San Juan Hills High School opened with about 600 freshmen students. It is the city's only public high school. Ultimately, nearly all San Juan Capistrano's high school students will move to this campus as well as some students from Capistrano Beach, San Clemente High school, and southern Ladera Ranch.
This city also has four private, Christian, college prep schools named Capistrano Valley Christian Schools (Pre-K through 12th grade), Saddleback Valley Christian School (Pre-K through 12th grade), St. Margaret's Episcopal School (also Pre-K through 12th grade), and JSerra Catholic High School (9th through 12th grade).
The city also has two private kindergarten through eighth grade schools named Mission Parish School and Rancho Capistrano Christian School. Mission Parish School is located on the historic Mission grounds, utilizes some of the historic buildings as classrooms, and is situated next to Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano. The other is Rancho Capistrano Christian School, located off Highway 5 on the Crystal Cathedral's south campus. The campus at Rancho Capistrano is also host to meetings and conventions, as well as summer camps.