Secretary Jewell Joins Texas Community to Celebrate Designation of San Antonio Missions as World Heritage Site

18th-century Missions officially inscribed as nation’s 23rd World Heritage Site

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: Oct. 17, 2015
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw (Interior),
Mardi Arce (NPS), 

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean today joined the San Antonio community to officially mark the dedication of the Spanish colonial missions in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which includes the Alamo, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Missions are now a part of more than 1,000 inscribed natural and cultural sites worldwide, such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Taj Mahal in India and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  

“The San Antonio Missions’ are universally admired for their representation of the unique, interwoven heritage of Spanish and indigenous cultures in the U.S., and warrant worldwide recognition,” said Secretary Jewell. “Today’s ceremony recognizes the many years of hard work and dedication put forth by individuals and organizations to achieve this designation, sharing an important chapter in the history of America with the world. Their efforts will help make San Antonio a top tourist destination.”
In 2012, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the Department’s intention to nominate the Missions as a World Heritage Site. The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agreed to inscribe the group of five Spanish colonial missions in the San Antonio area, which includes most of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Alamo, at its 39th session in Bonn, Germany, earlier this summer.

“The recognition of the San Antonio Missions as a cultural asset of international significance is a tribute to the city and citizens of San Antonio, who put in an extraordinary effort to draw the world's attention to this unique bit of history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bean said.

Situated along a 7.7-mile stretch of the San Antonio River, the five Spanish colonial mission complexes were built in the early eighteenth century. The missions’ more than 50 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 that are still functioning after hundreds of years. These achievements were possible through the combined efforts of the Spanish and indigenous peoples living in the missions.

“I cannot think of a better reason to Find Your Park than this weekend's World Heritage celebration. Together with community partners and Secretary Jewell, we invite visitors to enjoy the missions of San Antonio at a variety of family friendly events and programs,” San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Superintendent Mardi Arce said. “As we also celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service, the missions and the City of San Antonio usher in a new era of international recognition and look forward to welcoming visitors from around the world as they find their park.”

The site is the 23rd World Heritage Site in the United States out of more than 1,000 inscribed worldwide. Other recent inscriptions to the list from the U.S. include the Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point, Louisiana, inscribed in 2014; and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawaii, inscribed in 2010. 

The Interior Department’s National Park Service (NPS) worked closely with the San Antonio World Heritage Advisory Committee, consisting of many governmental and private organizations, to gain support through broad public outreach and financial resources.

The NPS manages all or part of 18 of the 23 World Heritage Sites in the U.S. The service is also the principal government agency responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention in cooperation with the Department of State. 

Inclusion of a site in the World Heritage List does not affect U.S. sovereignty or management of the sites, which remain subject only to U.S., state and local laws. Detailed information on the World Heritage Program and the process for the selection of U.S. sites can be found at

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