The United Nations has officially designated the Alamo as a UNESCO World Heritage Site over the weekend. The former San Antonio mission was where the storied Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836. In that fight — as more than 2.5 million tourists learn every year — a wiry band of white settlers fended off the Mexican Army for 13 days before dying in a final, bloody attack. Their heroism has long been a source of Texan pride, repeatedly dramatized in television and film.
The timing couldn’t be more uncanny. As noted by Casey Tolan in Fusion, the Texan soldiers fought for independence from Mexico partly because it had abolished slavery in 1830 and they wanted to keep their slaves. In that sense, the Alamo is a symbol of oppression and racism of the American south, fitting in the same unpleasant category as monuments to the Confederacy do. And given the ongoing debate over immigration from Mexico, it’s also a reminder that Texas once belonged to the US’s southern neighbor.
But the Alamo wasn’t the only notable site to receive heritage status. This year’s roster includes 23 other historic properties around the globe — from ancient Saudi Arabian rock art and Sicilian cathedrals to medieval French vineyards and Danish hunting grounds. There are also a striking number of religious sites on the list.
Most notably, the area along the Jordan River where John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus was designated a World Heritage Site, as well as Turkey’s ancient port city of Ephesus, home to many early Christians. Denmark’s Moravian church settlement of Christiansfeld, said to represent the Protestant ideal of town planning, was also added, as was an extension of the Route of Santiago de Compostela, a network of four Christian pilgrimage routes in Spain.
The Necropolis of Beth She-arim, a series of catacombs from the 2nd century CE that were built following the second revolt against Roman role, similarly received heritage status. And further east in Mongolia, the Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain, believed to have been the birth and burial place of Genghis Khan, also made the cut. UNESCO writes that the site “testifies to his efforts to establish mountain worship as an important part of the unification of the Mongol people.”
Here’s the full list:
- Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale (Italy)
- Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) (Jordan)
- Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia)
- Tusi Sites (China)
- Susa (Iran)
- Cultural Landscape of Maymand (Iran)
- Singapore Botanic Gardens (Singapore)
- Baekje Historic Areas (Republic of Korea)
- Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape (Mongolia)
- Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement (Denmark)
- The Par Force Hunting Landscape in North Zealand (Denmark)
- The Climats, terroirs of Burgundy (France)
- Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars (France)
- Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape (Turkey)
- Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site (Norway)
- Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus (Germany)
- Necropolis of Beth She’arim—a Landmark of Jewish Revival (Israel)
- The Forth Bridge (United Kingdom)
- San Antonio Missions (United States of America)
- Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining (Japan)
- Ephesus (Turkey)
- Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System (Mexico)
- Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape (Uruguay)
- Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain (Spain)
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.