San Antonio Missions Nominated for Prestigious International Recognition

San Jan Mission at San Antonio Missions National Historic Site.

San Jan Mission at San Antonio Missions National Historic Site. Photo

Earlier this month, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had a difficult decision to make. Each year, the Department of the Interior can officially nominate just two sites to be recognized as World Heritage Sites by the World Heritage Center (part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO). NPCA is pleased that Salazar officially authorized the San Antonio Franciscan Missions for the nomination this year. This site includes the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park as well as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as the Alamo.

What does this mean? If chosen in 2014, this site would be one of just over 20 in the United States and 900 in the world recognized as having “outstanding universal value.” Currently, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Statue of Liberty enjoy this prestigious distinction—but there are no World Heritage Sites in great state of Texas. Yet.

In April 2012, members of NPCA’s Texas Regional Office, Los Compadres de San Antonio, San Antonio River Authority, Bexar County, San Antonio Conservation Society, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas supported the process by cosponsoring a meeting of international experts from Spain, Mexico, Canada, and the United States to help strengthen the nomination for the San Antonio Franciscan Missions. NPCA has continued to support the process because ultimately, if chosen, the distinction could mean additional international tourism for the site, as well as renewed zeal for protecting the historic park. The World Heritage Center is one of the most widely recognized preservation programs in history, providing support and raising public awareness about the importance of these outstanding places around the globe.

The San Antonio Franciscan Missions preserve the largest intact concentration of Spanish Colonial buildings in the United States today, including exquisite mission churches with their Romanesque, Moorish, and Spanish baroque designs, dating as far back as 1720. All four of the mission churches—San Jose, Concepcion, San Juan, and Espada—are still active Catholic parishes and churches.

More than 1.7 million people visit San Antonio Franciscan Missions each year. NPCA hopes international recognition could make that public interest even stronger.

About the Author

Suzanne Dixon is senior director of NPCA's regional programs.

  • Juli Hennessee

    These buildings being submitted for international recognition is wonderful. Hopefully it will go through. I would love to see them myself–maybe someday!

  • Harriet Emery

    Even though the Alamo is such a dissapointment it is part of our history, and should be included. Everyone who goes to San Antonie will want to go there.

  • http://none Doris Vician

    This is a great idea. Those missions, at least several years back, were quite will maintained. A few were still active parishes.

  • Adam

    While these are nice old historic buildings and interesting to visit, it doesn’t seem like they are anywhere near as valuable, impressive or historic as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or the Statue of Liberty. It seems that places like Yosemite, Olympic National Park, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Big Bend, the Everglades and other similar sites would be much more worthy of such a distinction.

  • Robert Marvos

    While the “Alamo” may be of historical importance to Americans, but nominating a site that was instrumental in taking territory from another country seems a bit disingenuous to me. There are many other spots in the U.S. that would be more appropriate.