San Antonio Spanish Mission landmarks may soon join Eiffel Tower, Pyramids on elite list of historic landmarks

National Park Service applies for World Heritage status

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio's centuries-old Spanish Missions may join the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Pyramids of Egypt on a new list compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of World Heritage sites.

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"We are continuing to keep this area sacred. It's sacred space,” said Father David Garcia, director of the Old Spanish Missions for the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

The nearly 300-year-old Spanish Missions have undergone little change through the years. Considered the jewels of San Antonio, they may soon join the World Heritage list, becoming global landmarks.

"I think we have some really good chances. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be pouring the amount of money and effort into this process that we are right now,” said Superintendent of the Missions for the National Park Service John Lujan.

The cost to apply is a steep $650,000, but because of the potential economic impact, many local entities have joined to foot the bill. That included Bexar County officials, who foresee an increase in tourism.

"If they're looking at San Antonio and they see us as a World Heritage site, it’s going to bring people out here. It’s going to bring them to the river, to the missions," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Pride is a factor in the process, too.

The missions would join elite company. There are 692 total World Heritage designations worldwide.

If the missions were chosen, they would make just the 22nd site in the United States and the first located in Texas. They would also join a list that contains the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge, and the Ancient Pyramids of Egypt.

Confidence is high for the application to be approved, due to the unique nature of the missions. Many of them still function as they did hundreds of years ago.

"The Secretary of the Interior told me directly: 'We're going to get this,'” said Garcia.

The National Parks Service is looking for community involvement in the application process and has launched a website, available here. A decision on whether the missions receive the World Heritage designation is expected by 2015.

For a list of recent stories Justin Horne has done, click here. 


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