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San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site Bid Moves Forward Despite Congress

Chris Eudaily
TPR News
Mission San Jose.

Missing from the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that passed Congress on Wednesday was payment to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for dues that could have paved the way for San Antonio’s Franciscan Missions to gain World Heritage Site status.

But that doesn’t automatically mean the missions will be passed over.

The U.S. stopped payments two years ago when UNESCO admitted Palestine, and while the U.S. remains a member of the group, it lost its voting status. Supporters of the San Antonio historic missions had hoped Congress would include payments to the UNESCO, which was seen as a roadblock by some for gaining World Heritage status for the five Spanish missions in San Antonio.

But Stephen Morris, chief of the Office of International Affairs for the National Park Service, said that is not the case.

"It is supposed to be a technical body -- the World Heritage Committee -- it’s supposed to be strictly about whether or not heritage sites – and that’s natural and cultural heritage sites -- are really the best of the best, the most outstanding sites in the world," Morris said.

On Wednesday the National Park Service sent the missions nomination to UNESCO for consideration and Morris said the committee should judge the 300-year-old missions on their merits.

"Sometimes politics does creep in so it’s hard to predict exactly how it will play out," Morris said. "Certainly not paying our dues does not help."

The decision from UNESCO is expected in the summer of 2015.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi