Mission San Juan
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Of the five mission churches, the church at Mission San Juan Capistrano is the least interesting in architectural terms. It underwent necessary renovation work in 2012 which was intended to stabilize the foundation and repair the cracks in the walls that had been caused by the slipping foundation. The church we see today has received an interior and exterior coating of white plaster, which has given it a more youthful and dramatic appearance. If the church could speak, I’m not sure it would have wished for such a drastic facelift. Pictures taken prior to the renovation reveal a much more wizened appearance.
The layout of the mission is the same as for the other four, but it also includes the ruins of a larger and more architecturally interesting church which was abandoned before completion due to a lack of manpower.
What I find most interesting about Mission San Juan is the result of archaeological digs that were performed on the grounds in the 1960s and 70s. The controversy that surrounds the study of human remains is an ongoing issue for modern archeology and for native populations in many parts of the world, as it has been for the descendants of the mission population at San Juan.
What the study of the burial site resulted in was a genetic verification that many members of the community that surrounds the mission today are in fact direct descendants of the original Native American population living in the mission. I can’t help but feel that given a choice, those ancestors would gladly have chosen to reveal their presence to their descendants; the very people who would respond with pride in knowing their heritage.
For more information on the study, click on this link to the National Park Service and read the document titled Reassessing Cultural Extinction: Change and Survival at Mission San Juan Capistrano, Texas, 2001.