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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Feature photo: The Old Mission Historic Cemetery is one site educators visit with indigenous descendants during informational tours in San Juan Capistrano. Photo: Collin Breaux

In order to give local educators a better understanding of San Juan Capistrano’s history, the Orange County Department of Education has recently partnered with members of the Juaneño and Acjachemen communities to provide informational tours that include visits to the city’s historic sites.

The collaboration came about because OCDE wanted educators to have as much historical context as possible and was done after county education representatives met with prominent San Juan indigenous descendants, including Jerry Nieblas and Domingo Belardes, said Marika Manos—the history, social science, and civics coordinator for OCDE.

“This is really exciting for us,” Manos said.

Three tours have been held so far this year and more are expected in the fall, an OCDE news release said. The tours include visits to the Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum, Old Mission Historic Cemetery (where San Juan’s early people are buried), and the Putuidem Village Cultural Center at the city’s Northwest Open Space. Refreshments and a chance to ask questions take place at the end of the tours.

Manos said she hopes educators can think through how to present the historical information to students, and even take their students out to the sites. Recognizing Native American history helps inform how people live today, she added.

“Oftentimes, our history books don’t always center on indigenous history that gives Native Americans agency,” Manos said. “When we talk to people in the community with indigenous ties, we give their stories life. Indigenous history doesn’t live in the past. It continues.”

To register for a future tour, contact Manos at

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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