SAN ANTONIO’S HISTORIC MISSIONS RECEIVE WORLD HERITAGE STATUS
Remember the Alamo..and the four other Missions because they 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.
It’s an elite list with just 22 existing U.S. landmarks. The only World Heritage Site in Texas, 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.
Susan Snow, archaeologist 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.”
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. 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, farmfields, ranchlands and compounds. Indigenous people and people from around the empire of New Spain were brought together to share technologies, art and cultures.
Communally, they have shaped the personality of San Antonio, now the nation’s seventh-largest city, as a melting pot of Latino, Native American and Western cultures. The Mission Experience Today As protected historic sites, the Missions host millions of visitors each year. All except The Alamo are still active Catholic parishes, some with descendants of the original congregants.
The Missions are now linked by the newly expanded River Walk, a network of garden-bordered paths along the San Antonio River that connect much of the city’s history with hotels, restaurants, theaters and more. Following a recent $358 million renovation extending it from three to 15 miles, guests have the opportunity to hike or bike from Mission to Mission as well as kayak certain sections of the river.