San Antonio Mission's World Heritage Site Bid Moves Forward Despite Congress

By David Martin Davies
January 21, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — Missing from the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that passed Congress on Wednesday was payment to UNESCO for dues that could have paved the way for San Antonio’s historic missions to gain World Heritage Status. But that doesn’t automatically mean the Missions will be passed over.

Supporters of the San Antonio historic missions had hoped Congress would include payments to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. stopped the payments two years ago when UNESCO admitted Palestine. And while the U.S. remains a member of UNESCO, it lost its voting status.

That was seen as a roadblock by some for gaining World Heritage status for the Five Spanish missions in San Antonio.

But Stephen Morris, Chief of the Office of International Affairs for the National Park Service, says that is not the case.

“It is supposed to be a technical body, the World Heritage Committee. It’s supposed to be strictly about whether or not [there are] heritage sites, and that’s natural and cultural heritage sites that are really the best of the best, the most outstanding sites in the world," Morris said.

On Wednesday the National Park Service sent the Missions nomination to UNESCO for consideration. Morris said the committee should judge the 300-year-old Missions on their merits.

“Sometimes politics does creep in, so it’s hard to predict exactly how it will play out. Certainly not paying our dues does not help," he said.

The decision from UNESCO is expected in the summer of 2015.