UN World Heritage Site Label Prompts Alamo Controversy

the alamo

The Alamo is once again the site of a battle, but this time the angst is over states’ rights and global supervision. Some Texans and political groups are concerned that the United Nations is attempting to garner control of the Lone Star State landmark. Texas property officials say unequivocally nothing of the sort is going on, but all are not yet convinced. The potential negative impact on nearby property owners if the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site designation is bestowed on the Alamo, some valid property rights and states’ rights issue may come into play.

A World Heritage Site designation mandates the creation of a property restrictions buffer zone which encompasses about 4,500 acres around the Alamo. Thousands of Texas property owners could be impacted by the change in property rights designation due to the new United Nations’ program status. The UNESCO Operation Guidelines state that the reason for the World Heritage Site buffer zone is to protect the nominated property, its use, and development.

Rumors about the United Nations taking over the Alamo began on social media networks and via email several weeks ago – and quickly went viral. Posters were concerned that the United Nations and their new World Heritage Site status would mean authority over one of the nation’s cherished landmarks, and four other Spanish colonial missions, would transfer out of Texas hands.

The Texas General Land Office did not address the land restrictions which would be placed on private property in the area of the Alamo after it is designated as a World Heritage Site. A press release only said that “complementary legal and/or customary restrictions” would be placed on Alamo area private property location in the vicinity of the UNESCO complex.

A Tea Party website published the official wording about the Alamo buffer zone:

A buffer zone surrounds the nominated property following the boundaries set up in the various city ordinances, including Rio Overlay Districts 3-6, Mission Historic District, River South Management Area, and the Alamo Historic District. The buffer zone runs from Travis Street in the north to Camino Coahuilteca on the south, Presa Street on the east and Mission Road and Roosevelt Ave on the west. The total area of the buffer zone is 1,828.8 hectares.

The controversy began as a response to an article written by former San Antonio Tea Party President George Rodriguez. He deemed his report a “cautionary piece,” noting also that he has lost faith in his local elected officials. “I’m just constantly saying ‘may’ or ‘might’ in the article. I’m never once saying that this [UN takeover of the Alamo] is going to happen. We need to be aware,” Rodriguez said in an interview about his now viral article. An excerpt from Rodriguez’s UN takes over the Alamo article reads: “Castro is a liberal who believes in a ‘global society,’ and apparently he sees no problem with the U.N. influencing or even managing the Alamo.”

When Yellowstone National Park was declared a “World Heritage Site in Danger” during the Bill Clinton administration, private property use within the so-called buffer zone was restricted as a protective measure. A privately owned mine multiple miles away from the national park was forced to close by order of the federal government. Such an example of UN control makes concerns about a foreign “takeover of the Alamo” appear a bit more credible. MySanAntonio.com reports that the World Heritage Site status was “actively sought” by local officials and such a title would “bring immense honor” to the Alamo and Spanish missions. They believe adding the Alamo onto a global list will bring in more tourism dollars.

“Some folks might think that getting on this UNESCO World Heritage list means the UN has some sort of influence on the Alamo. The people of Texas own the Alamo now and in the future. Nothing in is going to change that,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said.His officer oversees the operation of the Alamo and he is also a GOP candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has garnered a multitude of criticism over the UNESCO program in relation to the Alamo, but he does not have a direct jurisdiction over the Texas landmark or nearby Spanish missions.

Mayor Castro had this to say about the controversy:

The UNESCO designation is a significant and advantageous designation that does not in any way relinquish control, and it’s a designation that the Statute of Liberty and the Grand Canyon and other sacred American sites already have.

The website of the UNESCO World Heritage Site says its mission is to:

  • Encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage.
  • Encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List.
  • Encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites.
  • Help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training.
  • Provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger.
  • Support States Parties’ public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation.
  • Encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage.
  • Encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world’s cultural and natural heritage.

How do you feel about the World Heritage Site designation of American landmarks?

[Image Via: Shutterstock.com]