Friday, September 4, 2015

San Antonio's historic missions receive UNESCO World Heritage status

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio Missions were officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015.  This is an elite list with just 22 existing U.S. landmarks. Now the five Missions (including The Alamo) are taking their place among other great American historic and cultural institutions like the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, in addition to natural treasures such as the Grand Canyon and world wonders like the Great Wall of China.

Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas
The Missions are the third designation in the country in the last 20 years. "The United States has a powerful and valuable history that encompasses a wide range of peoples, creeds and experiences,” said Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to UNESCO. “The San Antonio Missions represent an important element of our story, and a World Heritage designation allows them to be shared not only within the U.S. but also the wider global community.”

Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, Texas
As Texas’ first UNESCO site, now there’s no hesitation to “Remember the Alamo,” the first San Antonio Mission.

Susan Snow, archeologist for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park who has been coordinating the community efforts to secure UNESCO World Heritage status since 2007, said, “The San Antonio Missions are a tangible representation of everything required for a functioning Spanish colonial mission system, all within a short trek along the San Antonio River. These Missions are a living example of the interchange of cultures bringing together the indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and other influences that form South Texas today.  The resulting cross-cultural exchange is the very essence of the great melting pot of the United States.”

History of the Missions
Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, Texas

As the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S., Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada and Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) were built in the early 1700s to convert Native Americans to Christianity and help settle this region under the flag of Spain.

Mission Espada Church
San Antonio, Texas
Straddling either side of the spring-fed San Antonio River, the five Missions are uniquely close to one another, spanning just over seven miles. They proved critical to Texas’ iconic history and heritage, shaping the San Antonio landscape with their acequias, farm fields, ranchlands, and compounds. Indigenous people and people from around the empire of New Spain were brought together to share technologies, art and cultures. The Missions continued to play an important role in early Mexican history and in the struggle for Texas independence. These contributions are still seen in the modern layout of the streets and neighborhoods of San Antonio.

Mission San Juan, San Antonio, Texas
The Missions survived for decades, creating a distinctive culture that blended native traditions with newly adopted Spanish ways. Communally, they have shaped the personality of San Antonio as a melting pot of Latino, Native American and Western cultures.

Mission San Jose, San Antonio, TX
Significance of the designation
“San Antonio has become the nation’s seventh-largest city while preserving the iconic history upon which it was built,” said Casandra Matej, Executive Director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Treasures like The Missions set us apart as an authentic destination, and now with World Heritage status, we are provided a tremendous opportunity to bring even more awareness, visitors and business to our city.”

Mission Espada, San Antonio, TX
For San Antonio, the economic impact will be significant, as tourism is one of the city’s top five industries, providing one in eight jobs and more than $12 billion annually.

 Information and photos courtesy of



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