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 Senior Regional Director, Texas
The Senior Regional Director for the Texas office, Suz oversees NPCA's programmatic work in Texas and Oklahoma.