“The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God.”
~ Psalm 84:3
I never tire of hearing about the swallows at Capistrano. Here is some information
for those of you who have never heard of the swallows, and for those who have,
but don’t know the whole story.
The miracle of the "Swallows" of Capistrano takes place each year at the
Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day.
As the little birds wing their way back to the most famous Mission in California,
the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and the visitors from all
parts of the world, and all walks of life, gather in great numbers to witness the
"miracle" of the return of the swallows.
Each year the "Scout Swallows" precede the main flock by a few days and it
seems to be their chief duty to clear the way for the main flock to arrive at the
"Old Mission" of Capistrano.
With the arrival of early dawn on St. Joseph’s Day, the little birds begin to
arrive and begin rebuilding their mud nests, which are clinging to the ruins of
the old stone church of San Juan Capistrano. The arches of the two story, high
vaulted Chapel were left bare and exposed, as the roof collapsed during the
earthquake of 1812.
This Chapel, said to be the largest and most ornate in any of the missions,
now has a more humble destiny–that of housing the birds that St. Francis
loved so well.
After the summer spent within the sheltered walls of the Old Mission in
San Juan Capistrano, the swallows take flight again, and on the Day of
San Juan, October 23, they leave after circling the Mission bidding farewell
to the "JEWEL OF ALL MISSIONS" San Juan Capistrano, California.
The Swallows of Goya
In the Rotarian spirit, when two cities have a link, whether it is by folklore
or of the soul, they declare themselves sister cities. Goya, in the province of
Corrientes, next to the deep river Paraná, and San Juan Capistrano, always
and each year exactly on the same day, the day of Saint Joseph, in mid-morning.
When the first band arrives, some one hundred swallows, as for two hundred
swallows, as for two hundred years, the bells of the old Franciscan monastery
ring while the swallows descend to a sow altitude, reconnoitering the terrain
to the delight of thousands of tourists, among them many children that had
arrived in order to be present for their arrival.
They arrive in search of the sunny valleys of California, the immense vineyards
that produce strong wine, the "Italy – Swiss wine" and the interminable fruit
orchards in the welcoming slopes of the Sierras, in the Andes of the north.
In truth, they have been arriving for centuries and millennia to fulfill faithfully
their biologic destiny: to live and reproduce themselves in benign climates
within a harmonious scheme of control and regulation of insects and plagues.
That is their destiny in the integral plan of nature.
Feeding themselves on insects, spiders, flies, worms, the reason for their
incredible voracity is the following:
- To feed themselves, in order to live and reproduce.
- To store fat in their tissues, which will be their fuel for the return flight.
For centuries the origin of the migration was unknown in Capistrano, as if
to say that the airport of origin was unknown, until in the present century the
origin of migration was able to be determined exactly: Goya, Corrientes, Argentina.
“Capistrano.” San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association. 1998.
Accessed 01 January 2011. <http://www.sanjuancapistrano.net/swallows/>