The storied San Antonio missions, including the Alamo, were built as the Spanish Empire expanded its dominion northward and later served as focal points in the war for Texas' independence. They now have been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of this rich history.
World Heritage listing is a prestigious designation that acknowledges the historical, cultural or natural value of a site and signals the U.S. commitment to its long-term protection and management.
The San Antonio Franciscan Missions were nominated for the designation Friday (June 1) at the Mission Concepción, a handsome stone church that looks much as it did when it was built in 1731. The structure is, in fact, the oldest unrestored church in America. While its exterior paintings have faded, its interior wall and ceiling paintings have been conserved.
The nomination entails the Alamo, whose defenders, including Davy Crockett, were killed by Mexican forces in 1836, and four missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
"World Heritage Sites represent an incredible opportunity for the United States to market our most significant places as destinations for domestic and international travelers," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in announcing the nomination. These missions embody the cultural roots of the city and represent the single largest concentration of Spanish Colonial resources in the U.S., he said. The nomination won't be considered by the World Heritage Committee until 2015.
There are 21 World Heritage Sites in the United States, ranging from historic sites such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia to spectacular natural parks such as the Grand Canyon.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park attracts more than 1.6 million visitors a year and supports nearly $100 million in economic activity annually, according to a U.S. Geological Survey statement.