Rally for the Alamo will be held at Alamo Plaza next to the downtown San Antonio landmark on Saturday, July 11, from 12-2 p.m.
All Texans are invited to attend the even protesting the Lone Star landmark being bundled as one of five Texas missions on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of World Heritage sites.
UNESCO recognizes locations with special cultural or natural significance. Last Sunday, these San Antonio missions were the 23rd United States location added to the international program, though it was the first time a Texas historical site was deemed of “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity” by UNESCO, USA Today reports.
For freedom and liberty loving Texans, though, the Alamo is at the core of where independence, not UNESCO, began.
Breitbart Texas spoke to rally organizer David Watts, Jr., who said the idea of this gathering came about because the UNESCO designation incenses Texans.
Watts, a conservative East Texas Republican who ran for Land Commissioner in 2013, said that during the campaign he got an earful from Texans who were not happy about the World Heritage site push.
“There is no problem at the Alamo that requires the UN’s assistance,” Watts wrote on the Rally for the Alamo page. He understands that the UNESCO distinction does not mean the UN takes over the Alamo or its operations.
“It does mean the UN will have influence in the way we manage and take care of the Alamo.”
Watts points to a 4,519 acre site “buffer zone” imposed around Alamo because of the designation.
In 2013, the San Antonio Express-News reported on that very influence when the US National Park director explained to city leaders that a proposed 26-story hotel and time-share building on top of the Joske Building at the Alamo Plaza could jeopardize the pending designation. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, now HUD czar, wanted that UN designation badly. He said, “No one on the council is going to do anything that jeopardizes the World Heritage site designation.”
They canned the lucrative hotel project.
The politicization of designated sites by UNESCO especially bothers Texans. The Statue of Liberty topped UNESCO’s site of “climate change threatened” World Heritage sites. The UN claim Lady Liberty could vanish from New York Bay in the next 2,000 years if, hypothetically, temperatures soar. UNESCO also declared the Florida Everglades “endangered.”
A 2013 Harbinger Consulting Group report traces the World Heritage program to the early 1970s when a Democratic congressman and the Republican head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed creating a list of sites around the world with global cultural and natural significance.
The US was the first of 190 countries to sign onto the World Heritage Convention, a United Nations treaty. The report says 962 were added. They consider the designation “akin to being named a ‘global national park.’”
The political prod to designate the Alamo was tourism-dollar driven. The Texas Tribune credits the San Antonio Conservation Society for igniting the UNESCO designation nomination process in 2006, along with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the Texas Land Office (which manages the missions) and then Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Julian Castro.
The Harbinger report also estimated the UNESCO designation’s widespread potential economic impact felt across Bexar County by 2025, as low as $44 million to as high as $105 million. They predict 465 to 1,098 jobs will be added and anywhere between $0.8-2.2 million might be added in local hotel tax revenue.
In 2014, Reuters noted that the Alamo is the largest tourist attraction in Texas, attracting about 2.5 million visitors a year.
Last month, Gov. Abbott signed House Bill 2968 dubbed the Alamo Bill, in which $32 million was put aside to ensure the Alamo gets preserved for generations. A press release from the bill’s sponsor Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) noted that the legislation served as a catalyst for the UNESCO World Heritage designation, which would “drive significant tourist dollars to the local economy.”
Alamo Director Becky Dinnin asserted that local San Antonio response to the designation has been overwhelmingly favorable.
AP reported on San Antonio native Rep. Joaquin Castro’s glee with the World Heritage designation, saying he was “proud and grateful” to the UN cultural body. Castro is convinced the designation will “raise San Antonio’s international profile” and potentially add jobs and dollars.
“While we might expect this sort of designation to be appealing to politicians in New York or New Jersey, many of us find it incredible that the the very first UNESCO site in Texas would be the very symbol of Texas independence: the Alamo,” said Watts.
No one knows what, if any tourism dollars will come from UNESCO’s nod. Dinnin told Breitbart Texas, “Whether or not this designation increases visitation or local tourism for San Antonio, our focus will remain the same — fighting for increased preservation efforts to ensure the Shrine of Texas Liberty continues to be a place of remembrance and inspiration for future generations to come.”
Watts highlighted a strained relationship between the US and UNESCO. A congressional ban prohibits the US from paying dues to UNESCO. In the 1990s, the US passed two laws that stopped the flow of funds to any UN agency that accepted Palestine as a full member.
Watts told Breitbart Texas he finds it ironic that “politicians in Texas want to cozy up to the very UN agency which the federal government is prohibited by law from funding.”
Breitbart Texas reported that control of the Alamo reverted back to the Texas General Land Office (GLO), although the Texas Tribune asserted current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush claimed longtime managers, Daughters of the Texas Republic failed to maintain the state-owned monument and fired them.
Dinnin advised, “The custodian of the Alamo will remain the Texas General Land Office and management will be administered by the Alamo Endowment Board. She also insists that the people of Texas “are now, and will forever be, the owners of the Alamo.
Converserly, Watts identifies a UNESCO resource manual that defines the universal mindset where the Alamo would belong to everyone, not necessarily Texans.
“That represents a philosophy that is radically different from that of average Texans. The Alamo does not belong to the world, or to all nations. It belongs to Texas. We paid for it in blood,” he said.
The five San Antonio missions named as UNESCO World Heritage sites are Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo, Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, and Mission San Jose.
“The politicians did this. Now it’s time for the politicians to hear from us, the people,” Watts wrote online.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.