Mission San Jose. Photo by Lois M. Rodriguez

The San Antonio Missions have long held a special place in my heart, but today, it was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during the World Heritage Summit in Bonn, Germany.

“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.”- Mayor Ivy Taylor

Missions of San Antonio 

UNESCO: San Anonio Missions

That is HUGE!

The designation means it’s not just big in our hearts, but the Missions’ cultural relevance and beauty have been elevated to a world-class status shared by sites such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty and Machu Picchu.

This is only the 23rd such site in the United States, but more importantly, it’s Texas’  first!

The new World Heritage Site features five 18th century Fransiscan mission complexes – including the Alamo – along the San Antonio River. They are an “example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, illustrated by a variety of features, including the decorative elements of churches, which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous designs inspired by nature,” UNESCO notes.


Mission San Jose detail. Photo by Lois M. Rodriguez

San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran says “As of July 5, 2015 the world now knows what we in the Southside and the city of San Antonio have always known; that we have a world treasure in our very own backyard. The honor of receiving the official World Heritage Site Designation will help to ensure that we can continue to enhance and preserve our treasure as we share it with the rest of the international community.”

San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cassandra Matej says, “We’re very excited to celebrate the World Heritage designation of San Antonio’s Missions. This city has always been a crossroads of commerce and culture—and of course that started at the missions. This designation for San Antonio will continue to grow visitation, a top industry in our city that bears many amenities that improve the quality of life for all of us who live here.”

Several city representatives were present in Bonn to await official word on whether the Missions would, indeed, be dubbed a World Heritage Site, but sincerest thanks and congratulations go to all who helped make it happen, including the San Antonio Conservation Society which kick-started the application process in 2006. This is a solid boost to San Antonio’s and Texas’ tourism industry.

Mayor Ivy Taylor says, “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.”

The new visitors drawn in by the site’s World Heritage designation are expected to have an economic impact of up to $105 million.

Matej adds, ”The SACVB works hard to market and promote San Antonio to potential visitors and meetings around the country, and around the world. As you can imagine, having a World Heritage designation is a fantastic opportunity to help tell our story.”

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