Destiny Hernandez closed her eyes as she sang a Nawat hymn about the earth, the creator and medicine working as one to help people daily. As she sang Wednesday at the Alamo, Hernandez did so in honor of her Spanish and indigenous ancestors, who built the Spanish colonial missions in San Antonio.

Hernandez was among those who spoke at a city World Heritage Office press conference that announced details of the seventh annual World Heritage Festival, which will take place Sept. 7-11. The festival will feature several events to celebrate the historic missions, which were designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 2015.

San Antonio’s five Spanish colonial missions comprise the only World Heritage Site in Texas and is one of 24 nationwide, many of which are no longer active but serve as natural attractions. The city, Bexar County, state and other partners worked for a decade to obtain the highly coveted designation.

The first World Heritage Festival took place in 2016. Events at this year’s festival are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

“More than anything, the number of people who participate in this festival has grown, both partner-wise and with the community,” said Colleen Swain, director of the City of San Antonio’s World Heritage Office. 

“Every year, there’s something a little bit different. It’s not always the same activities, so that’s why people should keep coming back every year,” she said. 

Swain said a new addition to this year’s festivities includes the Korean community’s participation in the city’s 40th anniversary celebration of its relationship as a sister city to Gwangju, South Korea, on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. 

At that event, there will also be an outdoor exhibit at Mission Marquee Plaza, music, food, performances and a celebration of culture. In addition, there will be a special screening of the Korean film, “A Taxi Driver,” which tells the story of the movement to democratize South Korea, which began in Gwangju.

The festival’s opening event on Sept. 7 will include the unveiling of an outdoor photography exhibit showcasing the sister city relationship at “Gwangju: City of Light and Democracy” at 7 p.m. 

Also on Sept. 8, the public is invited to “The Mission for Water: Building San Antonio’s Acequia System” from 6-7 p.m., which honors how the missions got their water. 

From 6-8 p.m. that same night, Artpace will showcase pieces from the Gwangju Museum of Art and culinary delights prepared by chefs from Gwangju. 

On Sept. 9 at 6 p.m., the World Heritage Office will present the third annual Music and Movie Under the Stars as a tribute to San Antonio’s legacy as Military City, USA. Attendees may bring lawn chairs, picnics and blankets to watch “Captain America: The First Avenger” at the Mission Marquee Plaza.

On Sept. 10, the Tour de las Misiones bike ride, walk and run will begin at the Mission Park Pavilion. The last day to register for participation is Wednesday. To register online, click here. Registration fees range from $25 to $55.

Junior Ranger Day is also scheduled for Sept. 10. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mission Espada, children can engage with park rangers and receive a badge for the National Park Service. 

On Sept. 11, the festival concludes with Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller celebrating the “Season of Creation” with a mariachi Mass at Mission Espada at 8 a.m., followed by a walk on the river trail to Mission San Juan. The public is encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and carry water bottles. 

For more information and details on this year’s World Heritage Festival events, click here

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...