Ivan Acevedo for the Rivard Report
The Bexar County Commissioners Court formally endorsed the nomination for the Spanish Colonial Missions as a World Heritage Site on Tuesday.
A group of San Antonio delegates will travel to UNESCO’s 39th World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany on July 5 to be physically present while representatives decide whether to grant the historic San Antonio Missions – Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada – and the Alamo the title of a World Heritage Site.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who will be traveling to Germany in late June/early July, said he wants to be there so that the World Heritage Committee members know how important this recognition is for San Antonio.
“We want to be physically there to talk to them and answer any questions that they might have,” Judge Wolff said. “This will be a big step for San Antonio if this happens.”
There are 1,007 World Heritage sites around the world, only 22 of which are located in the United States. The majority of the U.S. sites are national and state parks or Native American dwellings or burial sites.
“The great state of Texas has zero World Heritage Sites so if we are recognized we will be the first World Heritage Site in the state of Texas which is a significant achievement,” Judge Wolff said.
Betty Bueché, the director of Bexar County Facilities and Parks Department, who presented the proposal to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday, said the World Heritage Site title could boost San Antonio’s economic impact by an additional $105 million annually.
The designation would bring visitors and locals to the city’s Southside, an often overlooked area of town.
Commissioner (Prc. 1) Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez praised the vitality that the Missions bring to his neighborhood. He said people flock to the Southside to walk and bike along the Mission Trail that connects the missions to the San Antonio River, and a World Heritage title would only enhance the local and out of town presence in the neighborhood.
“It is very easy to support this,” he said. “I want to thank the leadership of this court.”
Virginia Nicholas stood next to Betty Bueché as she proposed the nomination to the court. Nicholas was the chair of the Bexar County Historic Commission nine years ago when the application was first sent to UNESCO for review.
The Missions received a key endorsement from the International Council on Monuments and Sites at the beginning of the month, which helped stir enthusiasm for the June meeting. ICOMOS is a French-based non-governmental organization that reviews World Heritage site nominations and helps determine which ones will be added to the list. Although this does not guarantee the Missions will become a World Heritage Site, it’s a step in the right direction.
*Featured/top image: “La Danza de Matachines” at Mission Concepción. Photo by Ivan Acevedo.