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World Heritage Status For San Antonio Missions On Hold

Aired 1/15/14 on KPBS News.

San Antonio’s historic Spanish Missions could join the ranks of the Pyramids of Egypt and the Grand Canyon as the most cherished and visited landmarks on Earth. The missions are being considered as U.N. World Heritage Sites.

San Antonio’s historic Spanish Missions could join the ranks of the Pyramids of Egypt and the Grand Canyon as the most cherished and visited landmarks on Earth. The missions are being considered as U.N. World Heritage Sites.

But a problem with Palestine, UNESCO and U.S. foreign policy is standing in the way.

Two years ago the United States stopped paying dues to UNESCO and was eventually kicked out of the United Nations Science and Cultural organization. That means the historic five Spanish Missions of San Antonio can’t be considered for World Heritage status.

San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro is now working in Washington D.C. to start repaying those UNESCO dues.

“We are hoping the Congress will appropriate about $700,000 in dues specifically to the UNESCO World Heritage Site program. Not our overall dues to UNESCO obviously, we know there’s a political concern there," Castro said.

The U.S. stopped paying dues to UNESCO because it admitted Palestine into the U.N. organization. And Castro says there isn’t the political will in D.C. to take that problem head on.

“I do think there is bipartisan support to put that political issue aside and participate in this World Heritage Site, which is really a cultural issue rather than a political issue," Castro said.

According to local tourism officials World Heritage status for the Missions would bring in an additional $100 million in economic impact to the city and would provide funds that would be used to preserve the 300-year-old buildings.

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