San Antonio missions may get World Heritage status

‘The San Antonio Missions represents a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage …’

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The Alamo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s been nearly 20 years since a new World Heritage site has been designated in the U.S. but that could soon change. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week said the San Antonio Missions, including the Alamo, will be nominated for the international list, which recognizes the most significant cultural and natural sites on the planet.

The most recent U.S. addition to the World Heritage register was the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (administered jointly with Canada) in 1995.

“World Heritage Sites represent an incredible opportunity for the United States to tell the world the whole story of America and the remarkable diversity of our people and beauty of our land,” Jewell said. “The San Antonio Missions represents a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage and the contributions of Latinos to the building of our country.”

Jewell credited former Secretary Ken Salazar, who visited San Antonio Missions in July 2012 to announce the department’s intention to move forward with the nomination, for playing a key role in making it possible.

This nomination will be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in the summer of 2015. If approved by the World Heritage Committee, it would join the 21 sites in the U.S. already inscribed on the World Heritage List, which is listed below.

The UNESCO World Heritage List falls under the auspices of the World Heritage Convention, of which the United States was the prime architect. It is an international treaty for natural site conservation and cultural site preservation proposed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972; the U.S. was the first nation to ratify it.

There are currently 981 sites in 160 of the 190 signatory countries. The list includes such iconic places as the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and the Statue of Liberty National Monument in the United States.

“World Heritage Sites draw visitors from around the world, providing not only prestige to local communities but also a boost to their economies,” Jewell noted.

The Department of the Interior is undertaking the nomination with the full cooperation and written support of all the property owners within the boundaries of the nominated area, including the National Park Service, the State of Texas, the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio River Authority, the Espada Ditch Company, the San Juan Ditch Water Supply Corporation, and Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

These owners, together with partner organizations, cooperated to prepare the nomination in consultation with the National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs, the principal technical agency for the U.S. Government’s participation in the Convention.

The nomination will be submitted through the U.S. Department of State to the offices of the World Heritage Centre in Paris, France. After reviews by World Heritage Centre staff and by the International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), it will be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee, which is a rotating body of 21 nations elected from among the signatories of the World Heritage Convention.

Inscription as a World Heritage Site does not impose any legal restrictions on property owners or neighbors of sites, nor does it give the United Nations any management authority or ownership rights in U.S. World Heritage Sites, which continue to be subject only to existing federal and local laws. The agreement of the property owner is required by U.S. law in order for a site in this country to be nominated to the World Heritage List.

As previously announced, the Department of the Interior plans to revise the candidate list, or Tentative List of potential future U.S. World Heritage nominations, by 2016. Interested parties may suggest properties for consideration at any time.

For further information, please consult the National Park Service, Office of International Affairs website.

“The San Antonio Missions”

The San Antonio Missions are nominated under World Heritage cultural criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) as the most complete and most intact example of the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize, and defend the northern frontier of New Spain during the period when Spain controlled the largest empire in the world. Situated along a 7.7-mile stretch of the San Antonio River, these five Spanish colonial mission complexes were built in the early eighteenth century. The missions’ more than fifty standing structures, archaeological resources, and landscape features include labores, a rancho, residences, a grist mill, granaries, workshops, wells, lime kilns, churches, conventos, and perimeter walls for protection. The ensemble of missions includes extensive agricultural irrigation systems of acequias, dams, and an aqueduct.

The United States revised and resubmitted its World Heritage Tentative List in January of 2008; under the World Heritage Committee’s Operational Guidelines, properties must be included on a country’s Tentative List before they can be nominated.

There are 12 additional properties or groups of properties on the Tentative List. Of these, the “Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point” in Louisiana was nominated last year and will be considered by the World Heritage Committee this summer; and a group of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright has been authorized to prepare a nomination, which is now in development.

Decisions on the timing and sequence for future nominations will be made periodically by the Department, and will include an opportunity for public comment. More information on the World Heritage Program can be found here.

The current World Heritage Sites in the U.S, with the year of their inscription, are:

ALASKA
Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks and Preserves, with Kluane and Tatshenshini-Alsek National Parks and Reserve in Canada (1979)

ARIZONA
Grand Canyon National Park (1979)

CALIFORNIA
Redwoods State and National Parks (1980)
Yosemite National Park (1984)

COLORADO
Mesa Verde National Park (1978)

FLORIDA
Everglades National Park (1979)

HAWAII
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1987)
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (2010)

ILLINOIS
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (1982)

KENTUCKY
Mammoth Cave National Park (1991)

MONTANA
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, jointly with Canada (1995)

NEW YORK / NEW JERSEY
Statue of Liberty National Monument (1984)

NEW MEXICO
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (1995)
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (1987)
Taos Pueblo (1992)

NORTH CAROLINA / TENNESSEE
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1983)

PENNSYLVANIA
Independence Hall, part of Independence National Historical Park (1979)

VIRGINIA
Monticello and the University of Virginia (1987)

WASHINGTON
Olympic National Park (1981)

WYOMING / MONTANA / IDAHO
Yellowstone National Park (1978)

PUERTO RICO
La Fortaleza-San Juan National Historical Site (1983)

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