UNESCO names ​San Antonio’s Missions a World Heritage Site

July 05, 2015 | posted by San Antonio Visitors and Convention Bureau

Topics: In the Press

UNESCO names San Antonio’s Missions a World Heritage Site

San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions have been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on July 5. World Heritage Sites are extremely exceptional cultural and natural properties nominated voluntarily by signatory nations, which are then approved by the World Heritage Committee.

The city’s missions officially join the global ranks of Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China and the Gizeh Pyramid of Egypt. This prestigious designation comes as Texas’ first and the 23rd in the United States.Other U.S. sites include the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Louisiana’s Poverty Point (2014) and others.

The designation was confirmed today at the 39th annual session of the World Heritage Convention in Bonn, Germany. The U.S. and San Antonio were well represented in Bonn with a delegation of public and private entities led by the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, Crystal Nix-Hines, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association. The San Antonio delegation included San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (District 3), Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and representatives from the San Antonio River Authority, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The University of Texas College of Architecture, Construction and Planning and the National Park Foundation. The lengthy and technical nomination process began in 2006 at the initiation of the San Antonio Conservation Society, and has truly been a massive communitywide effort with significant support from many organizations.In addition to those listed above, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, The State of Texas General Land Office, and others played a key role.

The World Heritage designation is expected to be a catalyst for socio-economic change.The greatest economic impact would come from increased visitation and tourism spending. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are especially recognized internationally; there are now 1,008 sites all over the world. By 2025, the World Heritage Site economic impact on San Antonio and Bexar County is expected to generate up to $105 million in additional economic activity and up to 1,098 extra jobs. (Source: Building on a Strong Foundation: Potential Economic Impacts of World Heritage Site Designation for the San Antonio Missions by Bexar County, 2013.)

“The City of San Antonio is delighted with UNESCO’s action today and the recognition that our Spanish colonial missions are of outstanding cultural and historical value to the people of the world,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor. “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.”

“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," County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "The San Antonio Missions are now the first World Heritage Site in the state and the 23rd in the nation. This community is known for protecting its heritage and I have no doubt we will continue sharing our heritage with the world.”

Four of the five missions are located on the south side of the city in City Council District 3. The completion of the San Antonio River Walk Mission Reach in 2013 provides opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, nature watching and more. Recent commercial and residential developments have attracted much attention to the area, which continues to experience revitalization in new and interesting ways. Landmark restaurants, unique shopping finds, resident and visitor friendly events and festivals, such as Mission Drive-In’s summer movie events, music events and farmers market are popular in the area. Additionally, recreation areas and attractions such as Hangar 9 (Brooks City Base), Riverside Golf Course and Alamo Helicopter Tours, make up part of a rich and celebrated community in San Antonio as part of District 3.

The designation includes the five 18th century Spanish Colonial Missions (to include the Alamo) and their complexes which include two acequia systems, labores (farm fields) and Rancho de las Cabras around Mission Espada.