Capistrano Mission: A Study in Constrasts

Capistrano HallwayThe San Juan Capistrano mission is a study in contrasts. It contains beautiful, crumbling architecture, which is situated in the middle of modern Southern California. The mission itself is surrounded by a freeway, and dozens of shops and restaurants.

Its history too, is one of stark contrast. Idealistically and a tad naively, it can be seen as a mission to explore the unknown and bring light into the darkness, yet it is tainted by what many see as the indoctrination and enslavement of the Native American populations. I say naively because, like many things, this was also about power, and the missions were one way of exerting Spain’s power over the new land.

Yet, much of that is in the past. Today, what strikes me most on a hot summer day is the contrast between the architecture of the past and the architecture of now. Without air conditioners or modern appliances, the mission was built so that there are natural breezeways through the corridors, along with a marked difference between the shaded walkways and the direct sunlight.

Now think of the modern home. Can the same be said for it? Of course not. Mankind had to invent a machine to pump cool air into the home, as an artificial copy of a natural breeze.

Whatever may be said about the history of the mission, to be there is to be in the center of a multitude of contrasts.

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