2008 World Monuments Watch
Colonial missions—together with garrisons and mining towns—established between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Jesuit and Franciscan orders became important settlements in northern Mexico. Sited on rivers in rural, agriculturally rich areas of Chihuahua, the adobe-and-wood religious and farming settlements reached their peak in the eighteenth century. The expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, however, precipitated the abandonment of many of these towns, while natural changes in the course of some rivers forced communities to move with them. The majority of the sites in this listing—San Juan de Dios (Janos), San Antonio de Padua (Casas Grandes), Santa Rosalia de Cuevas (Belisario Dominguez), San Javier de Teporachi (San Francisco de Borja), San Nicolas de la Joya (Satevo), San Mateo (El Tule), Virgen de Guadalupe (Balleza), and San Antonio de Guazarachi (Balleza)—are archaeological ruins. Santa Ana de Chinarras, however, has managed to retain its roof. As a result of exposure to wind and rain as well as vandalism, adobe walls are losing their protective mud plaster, while many stone structural and decorative elements have been lost. It is estimated that without emergency interventions some missions may collapse within the next few years. A conservation plan for the missions was completed in 2006, which provides for the development of social programs for communities, in concert with the conservation of the most historically significant structures for possible reuse as tourism destinations. Watch listing is intended to encourage its implementation.