U.S. seeks UNESCO World Heritage site status for Alamo, missions

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (R) takes a tour to the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island during its reopening to the public in New York July 4, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. government will nominate the Alamo, the famed location of a battle for Texas independence, and other colonial missions nearby as U.N. World Heritage sites, the Interior Department said on Friday.

The Alamo, located in San Antonio, and four other Spanish colonial missions that line the San Antonio River will try to join 21 other U.S. locations that include Yellowstone National Park and the Statue of Liberty in the listing of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the cultural arm of the U.N.

“The San Antonio Missions represent a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage and the contributions of Latinos to the building of our country,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement.

The Alamo, the site of the battle between Republic of Mexico soldiers and Texan rebels in 1836, is one of five missions established in the region by the Spanish in the 1700s to spread Christianity.

The other four missions -- San Juan, San Jose, Espada and Concepción -- remain working parish churches within the San Antonio Catholic Archdiocese and are operated by the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

The missions and the land around them became a national park in 1983.

The Alamo, with its distinctive façade, is located in downtown San Antonio and is the largest tourist attraction in Texas, attracting about 2.5 million visitors a year.

Texas was a part of the Republic of Mexico at the time of the 1836 battle when 200 Texas fighters held the Alamo for 13 days in a battle with over 1,000 troops from Mexico, who eventually routed them.

The Interior Department said it is hoping the bid sites will be included for inscription on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in mid 2015.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Leslie Adler