Aura Tegría Cristancho will discuss the struggle for indigenous land rights, protection of sacred spaces, inter-cultural solidarity, and safety for Earth Defenders in Colombia within the context of the peace process between the government and FARC Rebels.
Tegría Cristancho is a young indigenous lawyer from Colombia’s U’wa Nation. Since late 2013, she has served as the legal advisor to the U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Councils (ASOU’WA). During her tenure, Aura has been central to a number of important advances made by the U’wa people in the defense of their ancestral territory, like their successful shutdown of a natural gas exploration platform, called Magallanes, which was constructed within their ancestral territory in early 2014. Through nonviolent protest, international advocacy, media campaigns, and direct negotiations with the government, the U’wa were able to stop the project in its tracks and by early 2015 the platform had been dismantled. Throughout this process, Aura served as a liaison with Colombian and international allies, and a spokesperson before international media outlets and the government. Aura has also helped lead the U’wa’s fight to protect their sacred Zizuma,
the majestic mountain that lords over their ancestral territory, playing a unique and central role in their spiritual cosmovision. This is the resting place of their divine beings, the source of spiritual wisdom for their traditional authorities. Zizuma is called Mount Cucuy by the Colombian government, and located within a national park famed for ecotourism.
Aura has served as an international ambassador for the U’wa, participating in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2014 and 2016 and traveling to Washington, DC to meet with human rights lawyers at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which formally admitted the U’wa case in late 2015 in large part due to Aura’s diligent work.