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Shutdown Hits Conference, Not Alamo

by  Elizabeth Ruiz

Contrary to a report in the online magazine, "The Daily Beast," the Alamo is open. 

Four  missions in the South Side remain closed to visitors because of the partial government shutdown because the San Antonio Missions Historical Park is run by the National Park Service, but the Shrine of Texas Liberty is owned by the state. 

"What is not affected by the shutdown is the Alamo, the River Walk and all of our theme parks," said Cassandra Matej, executive director of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She said some tourists, especially international visitors, are disappointed that they can't visit the Missions.

"We had some visitors from France who wanted to explore the missions, so they were very disappointed," Matej told 550 KTSA News.

The bureau says a long term government shutdown would affect conventions and the San Antonio economy.

"About 10 percent of our meetings a year are government meetings.  Most of these national and international associations that meet in San Antonio have some kind of government component," said Matej. 

The effects of the shutdown are being felt at the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conference Thursday through Sunday at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Communications director Sara Clarenbach told 550 KTSA News that about 37 conference speakers and 38 conference exhibitors were forced to cancel their trips to the conference in San Antonio because of the shutdown.

"Some of these exhibitors would have been talking to students and recruiting students," said Clarenbach.

SACNAS also had to scramble to find a welcome keynote speaker when National Institutes of Health administrator Clif Poodry was forced to cancel his trip. 

She says Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie, PHD, was scheduled to be one of the presenters at the conference, so he agreed to fill in.

"It's quite a feather in our cap at SACNAS that we have a Nobel Laureate here, so we're grateful to him for stepping up," said Clarenbach.

SACNAS originally anticipated a conference attendance of nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral researchers, student mentors and representatives of colleges and universities.

"The inability of government representatives to share their critical information with our students is a great loss, as is the inability of government-affiliated students to attend and benefit from this conference," said Clarenbach.

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