WASHINGTON, July 20, 2015 — A string of colonial Spanish missions in San Antonio, including the famed Alamo, have been named a World Heritage Site.
Four of the missions — Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña, Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission Espada — today make up San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The other mission, San Antonio de Valero (better known as The Alamo), earned its place in history after a famous battle there in 1836.
The complexes, UNESCO said, “illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. The San Antonio Missions are also an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, illustrated by a variety of features, including the decorative elements of churches, which combine Catholic symbols with indigenous designs inspired by nature.”
“The United States has a powerful and valuable history that encompasses a wide range of peoples, creeds and experiences,” Crystal Nix-Hines, the U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to UNESCO, said in a news release. “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.”
The missions, which operated until the late 18th century, were built as self-sufficient communities that included farming operations. There, missionaries also converted natives to Christianity and taught them the Spanish way of life.
The missions today serve as important artifacts in the study of how Europeans colonized the region.
“The San Antonio Missions are a tangible representation of everything required for a functioning Spanish colonial mission system, all within a short trek along the San Antonio River,” Susan Snow, archeologist for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, said in a news release. “These Missions are a living example of the interchange of cultures bringing together the indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and other influences that form South Texas today.”
The missions join some of the most recognizable symbols in the world, such as Stonehenge in England and the Great Wall of China as World Heritage Sites. Other sites in the United States include Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and the Statue of Liberty in New York.