SAN ANTONIO — On Tuesday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated San Antonio a Creative City of Gastronomy, making the city part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). San Antonio is only the second city in the U.S. to earn this distinction, and the first in Texas.
San Antonio’s culinary heritage is significant for its confluence of many world cultures such as Mexican, Spanish, German and French, as well its geology and geography.
Drawn to San Antonio’s river running between the coastal plains and hill country, for 13,000 years indigenous people foraged roots, harvested pecans and hunted game. Trails and river ways brought trade with other groups who introduced gulf coast game. In the 1700s, Spanish colonists and Canary Islanders introduced new traditions and tastes. Other new flavors, spices and ingredients from Europe, Asia and Africa came with German and other European settlers in the 1800s.
Today the city’s culinary scene has since blossomed in its richness, with chefs honoring and celebrating its culinary heritage through preservation and innovation. Beyond the famous River Walk and historic walls of The Alamo, San Antonio’s culinary scene has historically been firmed planted in blends of Tex-Mex, but has now progressed to “Tex-Next.”
As a gateway to Latin America, San Antonio is uniquely positioned to showcase and celebrate the richness of this cuisine. The third campus of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is located in San Antonio. Dedicated to the foundations of culinary instruction as well as specializations in Latin cuisine, this campus takes advantage of San Antonio’s cultural influences and access to indigenous ingredients. The CIA campus is located at Pearl, a 22-acre indie food haven in a repurposed German brewery built in 1883. With 18 concepts, including a robust weekend farmers market and the city’s first food hall, Pearl is a destination onto itself.
UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network promotes international cooperation and encourages the sharing of experiences and resources to promote local development through culture and creativity. The local food movement and enthusiasm for sustainable programs spurred the dramatic evolution of San Antonio’s culinary landscape and inspired a comprehensive effort to apply for the UNESCO designation in June 2017.
San Antonio’s officials on the designation:
“This designation is a great honor for San Antonio,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “As a Creative City of Gastronomy, we will seek to strengthen and expand international connections, share our culinary arts and heritage globally and introduce San Antonio as an international culinary destination. We look forward to actively participating in the Network, which is aligned with our dedication to sustainable and equitable urban planning.”
“Travelers are increasingly seeking a destination with a robust culinary scene as a way to really get to know the heart of a city,” said Casandra Matej, President & CEO of Visit San Antonio. “The UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation confirms what millions of visitors have known all along—San Antonio’s cuisine is truly unique and authentic to our region.”
“One of San Antonio’s most important identities comes from its deep culinary traditions which began with the innovative agricultural techniques of the Native American peoples who lived here for thousands of years,” said Richard Perez, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO. “These have evolved and mixed with many others to create a unique and burgeoning food scene. The San Antonio Chamber is honored to have been part of the UNESCO Creative City application process, and we are eager to learn from and share information with other Creative Cities on a global level to enhance the culinary arts.”
“This is an exciting time for the culinary arts in San Antonio—the designation reinforces the creativity and hard work of every individual who participates in and supports the local culinary community and the philanthropy of so many groups, like the Chef Cooperatives and our chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier,” Chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloriasaid. “From showcasing our culinary heritage to sharing local innovations and leading the way with San Antonio’s brand of culinary diplomacy, the opportunities afforded us as a City of Gastronomy are all reasons for San Antonio to celebrate today.”
“The international bonds San Antonio solidified as a World Heritage Site are invaluable to us as a community and growing city,” District 3 City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said. “Becoming a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy will serve as another catalyst that encourages equity and more opportunity to protect and promote our local cultural assets at home and on the global stage.” Viagran’s district is home to four of the five San Antonio Missions that comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The UCCN covers seven thematic areas: Craft and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music. UNESCO announced this week that 64 cities have joined the Creative Cities Network. The UCCN is now comprised of a total of 180 cities from 72 countries.
About Visit San Antonio:
Visit San Antonio is a 501(c)6, and serves as the sales and marketing arm of San Antonio as a leading leisure and meetings destination. San Antonio welcomes 20.9 million overnight leisure visitors annually. Hospitality is one of the top five industries in the city, contributing $13.6 billion into the local economy and employing more than 130,000. More information about Visit San Antonio can be found at visitsanantonio.com.
San Antonio: America’s 21st Century City
San Antonio is a global city with a dynamic economy and workforce, a deep cultural heritage and diverse communities that are resilient and welcoming. It is one of the strongest fiscally managed cities in the country with a vibrant business climate and a ‘AAA’ general obligation bond rating from all three major rating agencies. San Antonio is a city that nurtures entrepreneurship, encourages investment and funds infrastructure. America’s seventh-largest city offers growth opportunities in bioscience, financial services, aerospace, cybersecurity, energy, transportation, manufacturing and healthcare. In 2015, UNESCO designated San Antonio’s 18th century Spanish colonial missions as a World Heritage Site – the first in Texas. Proudly called Military City, USA®, San Antonio is home to one of the largest populations of active duty military, veterans and crucial military commands. In 2018, the city will celebrate its 300th anniversary, honoring its rich past and a bright future focused on innovation and livability. For more information, visit www.sanantonio.gov.
—Visit San Antonio
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