San Antonio’s five Spanish colonial missions have been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 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 San Antonio Missions officially join the global ranks of Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, and the Statue of Liberty. This prestigious designation comes as Texas’ first and the 23rd in the United States. View the full UNESCO World Heritage Sites List here.
The designation was confirmed on Sunday, July 5, 2015 and 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.
The U.S. and San Antonio were well represented at the 39th annual session of the World Heritage Convention in Bonn, Germany 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 lengthy and technical nomination process began in 2006 and has truly been a massive community-wide effort with significant support from many organizations. Thank you to Bexar County Historical Commission, Dr. Paul Ringenbach, National Park Service, City of San Antonio, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions, San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Conservation Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Archdiocese of San Antonio, and The State of Texas General Land Office for all the hard work to accomplish this great designation!
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 1,031 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.
Bexar County has been heavily invested in the community quest for World Heritage designation 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. This community is known for protecting its heritage and I have no doubt we will continue sharing our heritage with the world.
There will be several events leading up to a big celebration in October. For more information, visit missionsofsanantonio.org.