San Antonio’s Historic Missions Receive UNESCO World Heritage Status

Mission San Jose is one of five San Antonio Missions just named to the UNESCO World Heritage list. (PRNewsFoto/San Antonio Convention & Visitor)
Mission San Jose is one of five San Antonio Missions just named to the UNESCO World Heritage list. (PRNewsFoto/San Antonio Convention & Visitor)

The wait is finally over: The San Antonio Missions have officially been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The decision was announced on July 5th at the annual UNESCO World Heritage committee meeting in Bonn, Germany. An elite list with just 22 existing U.S. landmarks included, 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. The Missions, which are the largest collection of the Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S., are the third designation in the country in the last 20 years.
San Antonio’s Missions symbolize an era when the world was expanding, cultures were intertwining, and the global landscape was forever changed. It’s time now to “Remember the Alamo,” the first San Antonio Mission.
“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.”
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.”
“San Antonio has grown to 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.”
Major Economic Impact
A UNESCO designation is a catalyst for socio-economic change, with increased visitation and tourist spending. According to the U.S. Travel Association, $928 billion was generated by domestic and international travelers in 2014, placing tourism as one of our nation’s largest economic generators and spurring an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries.
For San Antonio, the impact will be even more significant, as tourism is one of the city’s top five industries, providing one in eight jobs and more than $12 billion annually. By 2025, the World Heritage Site economic impact on San Antonio and Bexar County is expected to generate an additional $44 million -$105 million in economic activity, with over 1,100 newly created jobs.
History of the Missions
As the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S., Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, 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. Reported by PR Newswire.

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