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by Dr. Bob Manniello, Vice President of the SJC Docent Society

How do we sharpen our knowledge base about the origins of San Juan Capistrano, its past and present inhabitants and descendants of its first people, the Acjachemen? 

Fortunately, our beloved Capistrano Valley seems to always offer residents the chance to volunteer to help spread the word about its beginnings. In addition to our treasured Mission San Juan Capistrano and San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, the newly named San Juan Capistrano Docent Society has added another complementary opportunity. Ascending from the ashes like the phoenix referenced in the Latin phrase, RESURGAM, symbolizing the old mission rising up from abandonment, the SJC Docent Society continues its tradition of being dedicated to our community.

Prior Mission SJC docents and teachers are the core of the SJC Docent Society and have from 1-38 years of experience sharing San Juan Capistrano history with students and visitors to our beautiful Home of the Swallows. They share a belief and spirit that giving of oneself to others and community are essential elements of life.

Hidden city treasures are abundant and await exploration. The Society’s mission is to serve the numerous historic venues in our community. The Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum acts as home base with curator Domingo Belardes, direct namesake descendant of the only adobe still standing on the east side of the original Mission Plaza serving as their highly respected partner. Educating members and visitors about other aspects of California’s unique history through special guest speakers, programs and field trips complements the recently adopted SJC Docent Society mission statement.

At monthly meetings on the Blas Aguilar Adobe grounds, the society hosts speakers with expertise in various aspects of SJC history and culture through our city’s nearly 250-year timeline. Tours of the historic 1794 Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum and grounds occur weekly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (For appointments, contact Kerry Ferguson, president, at or 949.276.6932.)

The group is working with CUSD to develop a History Lab for interested students and other special programs that will be inaugurated in Fall 2021. “Once a teacher, always a teacher…”

Come check out this dedicated volunteer group and, hopefully, participate as a member. Remember, scientific studies have confirmed that volunteering is a healthy avocation promoting one’s lifespan extension.

Dues are $25 per year, and new members are most welcome. To join, contact Ana Castro at

Robert L. Manniello, MD, has been an SJC resident for 27 years, Mission SJC docent for the past 18 years, board member of multiple local nonprofits, Capistrano Valley News contributor, volunteer at The Book Store and newly elected Vice President of the SJC Docent Society.

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comments (1)

  • Congratulations Dr Bob, on your encouraging other locals to DIVE DEEP into our Capistrano Valley, and our native Acjachemen people. Yes, Domingo Belardes does an admirable, passionate job of educating visitors of our peaceful native Americans. And as a VP of such a historically intent group, keep it RISING! Judith

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