Mission San Juan To Become World Heritage Site?

Updated: Wednesday, March 19 2014, 10:03 PM CDT
Mission San Juan To Become World Heritage Site? story image
By Michael Valdes:

The San Antonio missions may soon officially be on par with the Statue of Liberty, the pyramids of Egypt, and the Great Wall of China.  That’s because the missions are a finalist be named a world heritage site.

Susan Snow with the National Park Service says, “What we see here is this melting pot of cultures that comes to be what we consider south Texas today."

It is one thing to visit a historic building... It's quite another for that visit to take you back in history.  But that is exactly what Susan Snow says is happening at mission San Juan.  She says, "One of the things in south Texas as we know, rain does not always come when we want it to.  So the Spanish brought with them an irrigation system that they learned first from the moors, when the moors occupied Spain.  And that is called an acequia system. "

And the return of that system now gives visitors a chance to see something that in almost all the world, you can only find here in San Antonio.  And it also gives a chance to relive exactly how the Spanish and early settlers worked this land.  Especially since much of the 200-acres surrounding Mission San Juan has not changed a bit.  “These first little rows that you see here were planted by a high school group as part of a national park foundation grant," says Snow.  Corn, beans, squash, even jalapenos grow on the mission’s farm.  And they are lining up classes that will train volunteers how to farm the land.

It’s just the beginning of a much bigger idea to give visitors a much better idea of what life was like beyond the church walls.  "At the same time they are digging the ditch, they are building the buildings.  So you can imagine the amount of labor this took for all of this to be done.  So there was not a lot of r-and-r in that time period," says Snow.

The free flow from the land goes all the way back to the San Antonio River.  Snow says, “The Spanish were the first water conservers and the laws of the indies stated that any water you took out of the river had to return to the river." 

And now that the river is much easier to navigate, people can hike, bike, or canoe through the missions.  Susan Snow says, “San Antonio is the only place in the world where in basically a seven mile or so stretch, where you can see every aspect of a mission system."

The hope is that more people can now get a better understanding of life on the mission... By living it. Snow say, ”Now you can understand that these were more like people like you and I.  They had the same struggles.  What are we going to eat?  How am I going to care for my family?"

The city, Bexar county, National park service, the San Antonio River Authority, and others are all working together hoping to land that world heritage designation.

A final decision is still a couple of years away.
Mission San Juan To Become World Heritage Site?

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