July 5 was a big day for San Antonio, Texas and history lovers the world over when San Antonio Missions was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The decision was announced at the annual UNESCO World Heritage committee meeting in Bonn, Germany.
The five Missions, including The Alamo, became the 23rd UNESCO site in the United States and the first in Texas. The Missions are the largest collection of the Spanish colonial architecture in the nation and “symbolize an era when the world was expanding, cultures were intertwining and the global landscape was forever changed,” according to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.
(Mission San Jose)
"The United States has a powerful and valuable history that encompasses a wide range of peoples, creeds and experiences,” said Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to UNESCO. “The San Antonio Missions represent an important element of our story, and a World Heritage designation allows them to be shared not only within the U.S. but also the wider global community.”
History of the Missions
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 Spanish flag.
(Mission San Jose)
Straddling both sides of the San Antonio River, the missions are situated close to one another, spanning just over seven miles. They proved critical to Texas’ iconic historyand heritage, shaping the San Antonio landscape. Indigenous people and people from around the empire of New Spain were brought together to share technologies, art and cultures. The Missions continued to play an important role in early Mexican history and in the struggle for Texas independence.
Today the missions host millions of visitors every year. All except The Alamo are active Catholic parishes, some with descendants of the original congregants.
For more information:
- San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau: http://visitsanantonio.com
- San Antonio Missions: www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm
- UNESCO: http://whc.unesco.org