San Antonio Missions receive World Heritage designation

The San Antonio Mission Trail has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.

The vote was tallied just after 6 a.m. CDT on Sunday morning, which is roughly 1 p.m at the site of the meeting in Bonn, Germany.

After The Committee on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, recommended the inscription, countries had the opportunity to ask questions about the recommendation or share their support. Only one country, Portugal, had a concern about Hemisfair Park and its construction. Representatives from the U.S. clarified plans for Hemisfair and noted it is in the trail's buffer zone and Portugal was satisfied.

Other countries who took their turn at the mic were overwhelmingly in support.

Among those with U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines in Bonn were Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ivy Taylor. Both the judge and the mayor thanked the committee and other countries for their support on behalf of the city and expressed excitement to share the treasure with the world.

In a statement, District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, whose district includes much of the Mission Trails, said:

"This is a monumental moment for all our families who have lived in and around the Missions because we are very proud of being from the Southside. As of July 5, 2015, the world now knows what we in the Southside and the City of San Antonio have always known; that we have a world treasure in our very own backyard. The honor of receiving the official World Heritage Site Designation will help ensure that we can continue to enhance and preserve our treasure as we share it with the rest of the international community."

The decision comes two years after county leaders first asked UNESCO to consider the Alamo and the Mission Trail for the honor. It sparked online buzz about a "New World Order" in which the Alamo would be "handed over" to the United Nations.

County Judge Nelson Wolff quickly shot those ideas down and when KENS 5 asked him in 2013 if locals would see any meddling from the U.N., or if the organization would have a stake in the day-to-day operations of the facilities, he responded, "No. The only thing that they would ask is that you take care of the treasure, like we have, and you do nothing to denigrate it."

See the city's executive summary of their World Heritage application below.

In January 2014, there was more concern over whether or not the missions would receive a nomination due to America's unpaid debt to UNESCO. In 2010, the U.S. stopped paying its dues when UNESCO added Palestine became a full member. In 2014, the U.S. owed millions in unpaid dues.

Just one week after reports of the possible hold-up, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the U.S. wanted to recognize the San Antonio landmark as among the most significant cultural and natural sites in the world.

There are 981 sites in 160 countries, including the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef.

China, Iran, Mongolia, Singapore, Denmark, France and Turkey also earned World Heritage designations Friday and Saturday.

The San Antonio Missions were the only site in the U.S. that was nominated this year.

Experts estimate the designation will bring $100 million per year to the local economy.


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