The plan outlined in this document guides the development of an international, multidisciplinary partnership for cultural resource management. The Missions Initiative involves hundreds of Spanish Colonial Mission sites in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Representatives of both the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) are collaborating to protect cultural resources and promote heritage tourism through the re-establishment of historic links among Spanish Colonial missions. The initiative has already begun to foster cooperation among independent research organizations, academic institutions, non-profit agencies, ecclesiastic authorities, and partners in federal, state, and local governments.
From the early seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century, Spain established religious missions to convert and govern local indigenous peoples in what is now the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. These institutions were part of the larger effort to claim and settle territory as well as obtain valuable resources from the New World. While political boundaries and affiliations changed over time, many missions persisted as thriving community centers and examples of an architectural style that inspires regional builders to this day. The Missions Initiative intends to coordinate efforts, in both the U.S. and Mexico, to protect mission resources. The initiative also strives to once again place mission sites into their interconnected, Spanish Colonial context. Using mission sites as a positive focal point for economic activity in the border region is another major thrust of the proposal.
Specific Missions Initiative goals include:
- Enhance communication among those involved in the management of Spanish Colonial Mission sites on both sides of the international border
- Create education and preservation programs that accurately portray the mission system as an integrated network
- Develop consistent criteria for preserving, cataloguing, and interpreting cultural resources of Spanish missions in the U.S. and Mexico
- Support economic development of host communities through the promotion of heritage tourism
The Missions Initiative acknowledges and draws on the experience of other collaborative efforts to manage similar cultural resources. The program recognizes the constant need for consulting with Native American communities in the United States and Mexico, reconciling multiple jurisdictions, and addressing border security concerns. Other administrative details outlined in this document include:
- Agreements made to date that govern the proposed activities
- Proposed organizational structures for the initiative
Together, these elements represent a dynamic beginning for the development of management practices that will benefit both cultural resources and the social and economic sustainability of communities in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S