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With Thumbs Up From ICOMOS, San Antonio Missions Move Closer To World Heritage Designation

Susan Snow

The City of San Antonio and Bexar County have received word that the International Council on Monuments and Sites — or ICOMOS — has recommended to the World Heritage Committee this week that the San Antonio Missions should receive a World Heritage Designation.

An ICOMOS evaluator had come to San Antonio last fall to inspect the Missions’ site for authenticity and integrity. San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor said she learned of the recommendation just before the announcement became official on Monday.

“I found out about it [in] the latter part of last week from the City’s Historic Preservation Officer, Shannon Miller. She’s been closely involved with the designation process,” said Taylor.

The World Heritage Committee is considering the San Antonio Missions because together they represent an exceptionally complete example of the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize, and defend the northern frontier of the New Spain. 

“Well, the Missions tell a complex story that’s unique to San Antonio and also gives us some insight into the results of colonization throughout the Americas — the acequias, the farms, the desire to spread the gospel here. They’re a globally significant resource.”

ICOMOS also evaluated the local plan for protection and management of the historic treasure, especially given that the designation will bring in hundreds or thousands of new visitors.

“A World Heritage Site designation will strengthen San Antonio’s global business and cultural ties,” said Taylor. “In addition, the designation would have a significant economic impact for both the City and the County. According to a study conducted by Bexar County, elevating our five missions to World Heritage status would generate anywhere from $44 to $105 million annually in additional economic activity, create 500 to 1,000 new jobs, and add up to $2 million in local hotel tax revenue,” she added.

The ICOMOS recommendation for inscription was the last step before the World Heritage Committee considers the Missions’ nomination at its annual meeting in Bonn Germany, June 29 to July 8. 

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.