Welcome to L.A. Street Names, the origin stories of street names across Los Angeles County, from the shortest cul-de-sacs to the longest boulevards. Mysteries solved, myths debunked, scandals exposed, history revealed. This is an ongoing project with more than 1,700 streets – and growing. See FAQ for more information.
Most Californians know about Junípero Serra – if you don’t, I’ll give you some background in a moment – but not everyone agrees on how to say his name. Proper Spanish would be “hoo-NEE-ped-o”. English speakers mostly go with “hoo-ni-PAIR-o”. But if you’re in Long Beach, don’t be surprised if you hear locals call this street “WAH-ni-PAIR-o”. Perhaps some LB old timers thought Serra’s first name was Juan, so we’re left with this unique pronunciation. (If you like that, you’re going to love Ximeno Avenue.) Anyway, Junipero Ave. was the “J” in an alphabetical group of streets – most with Spanish names – laid out in 1886. Its namesake, Junípero Serra (1713-1784), was a Franciscan friar originally from Mallorca. He came to Alta California in 1769 and established the first nine of our 21 missions, converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity whether they liked it or not. Unsurprisingly, his work has since become a polarizing issue.