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.