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Evaluator Inspects San Antonio Missions For World Heritage Consideration

Susan Snow


Not many people know the depth of the historic treasure that stretches southward from downtown along the San Antonio River, but if the San Antonio Missions World Heritage nomination is successful, millions of people will know at this time next year.

Local officials have completed their part of the San Antonio Missions World Heritage nomination – and now, we wait.

An international evaluator secretly made a trip into San Antonio last week for the inspection of the five missions and Rancho de lasCabras.

The visit had to be kept secret. The International Committee on Monuments and Sites policy requires that the inspection of the site not revealed to the public to maintain an unbiased process.

Credit Susan Snow

Susan Snow, coordinator of the Missions World Heritage Advisory committee, says the evaluator who inspected the site was tasked with looking for authenticity and integrity – and the plan for protection and management of the historic treasure, especially given that a World Heritage designation will bring visitors from around the globe.

"How do we propose to get people from site to site?" was one of the questions asked of Snow, she said. "And if we get a 17 percent increase in tourists, she wanted to know what our signage was like, what our way-finding tools were," Snow added. 

Snow says most of the tools, roads and pathways for managing tourism of the site are already complete. That's critical, because tourists will not only visit the missions along the trail, but also the ranch that supported the parishes that thrived there.

"It's a separate, sixth part of the nomination. But it's key because Rancho de las Cabras is the only known mission ranch left in the world," Snow said. 

"One of the outstanding universal values is the acequia and agriculatural systems. We have both the intact acequia systems, the farmlands and the ranch lands. Nowhere else can you see all of those aspects of a mission system still in place."

Snow says the ranch land system demonstrates the uniqueness as an amalgamation of ideas from Spain, with Moorish and Roman roots, and an added 200 years of combining Mexico agriculture to the indigenous people of this area.

From here, the evaluator turns in a report to the ICOMOS Paris who, in May, will make a recommendation for inscription, or referral or denial, and the World Heritage Committee will meet in Bonn, Germany, for its vote in June.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.