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Celebration Planned For San Antonio Missions' World Heritage Designation

San Jose is one of five missions included in UNESCO's World Heritage designation.


Accolades are flowing in the wake of UNESCO’s naming San Antonio’s Spanish Missions as Texas’ first World Heritage site.

It joins a list of 22 other U.S. sites recognized by UNESCO including the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and the Taos, New Mexico, pueblos.

The United Nations organization also approved sites in Norway, Germany, Israel and Scotland during the Sunday morning announcement in Bonn, Germany.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor addressed UNESCO members following the announcement.

Wolff noted the money Bexar County committed to restoring the river banks and natural areas around the Missions, and said, “We are committed to their continued protection.”

Taylor thanked the many people who have spent nine years preparing the application for the designation.

“We reaffirm our commitment as a community to protect the Missions’ outstanding universal value,” she said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-San Antonio, said he looks forward to more people in the world appreciating a treasure that represents the culture and diversity of San Antonio.

“What we have long known is officially recognized—our Missions are a part of what is formally called the “patrimony of humankind,” Doggett said.

County Judge Wolff and Mayor Taylor will have a celebration of the World Heritage inscription at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 7, in front of the Alamo, the first of the five missions to be built. 

Original Story:

BONN — At a Sunday morning announcement in Germany, after votes were tallied at 6 a.m. Central time in the U.S., the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Committee approved the listing of San Antonio Missions as a world heritage site.

With this, the iconic landmarks of five Spanish Roman Catholic sites, built in the 18th century in and around what is now the city of San Antonio, become Texas’ first World Heritage site, and the 23rd in the United States, joining the likes of the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon.

Media reports indicated that the only real questions about the approval came from Portugal, after The Committee on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, recommended the inscription. According to KEN5, this was apparently the point when countries had an opportunity to ask questions about the recommendation and Portugal had a concern about Hemisphere Park and its construction. U.S. representatives then answered those questions.

Spain used the Missions to convert indigenous people to Catholicism and make them Spanish subjects. The best known of the missions is The Alamo, site of the 1836 battle that is an integral part of Texas history.

A delegation from San Antonio, led by Mayor Ivy Taylor, was there to mark the historic occasion. Mayor Taylor stated: “The strong collaboration responsible for our application, which includes an ongoing commitment to protect and preserve the missions, will also continue to work together to tell our story to visitors from around the globe and build even stronger relationships with countries like Mexico and Spain, because we are telling their story too.”

She had also said that the city was “delighted with UNESCO’s action” and the “recognition that our Spanish colonial missions are of outstanding cultural and historical value to the people of the world.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was also, there, along with Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, and other city representatives, talked about the investment in the process involved to come to this point. “Bexar County has been heavily invested in the community quest for World Heritage inscription with the Bexar County Historical Commission involvement in writing the application to the investment in the 8-mile Mission Reach that connects four of the missions to funding the economic impact study of becoming a World Heritage Site.”

The designation is expected to bring more than $100 million per year to the local economy.

More than a dozen other sites were also granted world heritage status in recent days, including Singapore’s Botanical Gardens, the Diyarbakir Fortress in Turkey and France’s champagne industry region.