Last weekend was the first annual World Heritage Festival here in San Antonio, celebrating one year since the inscription of the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site. Having spent my career in heritage, this is exciting for me because now I live, work and play in a World Heritage site for the first time in my life.
Except for that five weeks in the Wachau in 2005…
This is where I live
The festivities for the World Heritage Festival began on Thursday with the groundbreaking for the new San Pedro Creek project. You may recall that San Pedro Creek, which feeds into the San Antonio River down near Mission Concepción, was what the Spaniards first named San Antonio 325 years to the day before I moved in. Thursday’s event included an opera commissioned by the County celebrating the confluence of cultures that is San Antonio, and a water fountain, because how else do you “groundbreak” a creek?
Friday we had the second example of “Restored By Light”, a projection that drew thousands to San Jose Mission to see its original colored facade restored by light after dusk. Last year Mission Concepción got similar treatment, and this year they upgraded, illuminating both the main facade and both facades of the tower. It was both a spectacular communal event and an object lesson in how best to treat heritage in the 21st century.
Saturday was the 22-mile Tour de las Misiones bike ride, which I quite enjoyed, and while I ride the Mission Reach of the River Walk daily, this was a chance to do surface roads with about 400 others (including a police escort).
Tour de las Missiones hears about the layers of history at the Alamo from a costumed interpreter.
There were more festivities on Saturday night and on Sunday the four missions which are active parishes held masses celebrating World Heritage, so of course I was at Mission Concepción, because Father David Garcia is the Director of the Old Spanish Missions, a superior speaker, and the mariachis there are the BEST!
I used to go to a church built in 1909. This one is 180 years older.
Now, right in the middle of all this festivity, the new edition of Saving San Antonio by Lewis F. Fisher (Trinity University Press) was released, which brings the story of preservation in San Antonio up to the present day. This was great, because it quotes our President Janet Dietel about important contemporary issues like the effort to save the Crockett and Woolworth Buildings on Alamo Plaza, as well as the 1968 Wood Courthouse/United States Pavilion.
Crockett Building (left) and the first peacefully integrated Woolworth’s lunch counter in the south, two buildings to the right.
Wood Courthouse/United States Pavilion
The Rivard Report covered the festival extensively (that guy is everywhere!) and expressed the hope of many San Antonians that it become an annual affair.