San Antonio succeeds in its UNESCO mission

By | Category: Travel destinations
The alamo - the most famous of the Missions

The Alamo – the most famous of the Missions

As Just about Travel mentioned last week, one of those sites granted UNESCO World Heritage status was the San Antonio Missions in Texas.

To many the name signifies very little. Mention the word “Alamo” and recognition dawns. Images of John Wayne and his compatriots fighting and dying has become part of American folklore but the Alamo was more than just a battleground.

It was a mission, one of five that make up the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S. The five, 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 San Antonio River, the five Missions are close to one another, spanning just over seven miles so it becomes quite easy for holidaymakers to see all of them in the one visit

With their limestone facades and bell towers, the Missions bring to life a bygone era.  All are open to the public free of charge. Tours allow visitors to walk the historic grounds and explore living quarters and churches, while hearing centuries-old stories from studied park rangers. 

Mission Concepcion  © Doug Wilson/SACVB

Mission Concepcion © Doug Wilson/SACVB

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. These contributions are still seen in the modern layout of the streets and neighbourhoods of San Antonio. The Missions survived for decades, creating a distinctive culture that blended native traditions with newly adopted Spanish ways.

For the city of San Antonio, tourism is already a big draw contributing more than $12 billion annually to the economy. In the next ten years, the UNESCO designation is expected to generate over a thousand new jobs and add up to another $100 million to the city’s economy.

No wonder when I saw people from the tourist office last month they were excited and concerned about the outcome. The campaign to get recognition for the missions began eight years ago. But was it worth it? The glint in their eyes even a month ago showed that they were hoping and could visualise what it would mean if they were successful.

Knowing them, my bet is that a drop of alcohol may have passed their lips last week when their success was announced!


PS My apologies to Richard Oliver for the punning title!

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