On July 4, 2015 the San Antonio Missions became a UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. What’s the big deal?

In 1972, various international bodies united to draw up the World Heritage Convention. It was designed to provide a way for international co-operation to occur to protect cultural or natural places of ‘outstanding universal value’ so that future generations may enjoy them as we do now.

As of July 2016, 1,052 sites are listed: 814 cultural, 203 natural, and 35 mixed properties, in 165 countries. Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 51 sites, followed by China (50), Spain (45), France (42), Germany (41), India (35) and Mexico (34).

The first sites in the United States added to the list were Mesa Verde National Park and Yellowstone National Park, both at the Second Session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Washington, D.C. from September 5–8, 1978. In total, 23 U.S. sites have been included, the most recent being the San Antonio Missions.

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San Antonio worked for nine years to get on the UNESCO list. National Park Service archaeologist Susan Snow noted, “It means the Missions are now on a par with the other great World Heritage Sites, like the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China, and also our own World Heritage Sites, such as the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall,” she said. “We’re all pretty excited to join such an elite family of sites around the world that help to tell the global story of the movement and combining of peoples.”

An economic impact study indicated that World Heritage Site designation for the Missions was expected to generate an estimated $44 to $100 million in additional economic activity in the next decade, as well as 1,000 new jobs and more than $2 million in additional hotel tax revenue. For San Antonio, that’s a big deal!

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