UCI Welcomes Aura Tegria, 26-year-old Colombian Indigenous U’wa Lawyer

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During the upcoming 2016 World Indigenous Law Conference, the Sustainability Initiative is honored to host special guest Aura Benilda Tegria Cristancho.

Ms. Tegria is a lead community legal advisor for the indigenous Colombian U’wa people.  For decades, the U’wa community has worked to protect their ancestral lands and culture in rural northeastern Colombia, where the waters flow into the Amazon basin. The U’wa assert an agenda for community development that respects the land, often putting them at odds with state and corporate interests that seek to use natural resources within the community’s ancestral domain in ways that are contrary to the community’s cultural values. 

UCI Sustainability Initiative director Abby Reyes with Aura Tegria, Legal Advisor, ASO U’WA, and Martin Wagner, director, Earthjustice’s International Program.

UCI Sustainability Initiative director Abby Reyes with Aura Tegria, Legal Advisor, ASO U’WA, and Martin Wagner, director, Earthjustice’s International Program. Photo Credit: UCI

Ms. Tegria is the first U’wa woman to become a lawyer. She comes to WILC representing her community’s efforts on the heels of several notable international interventions this year, including representation at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Ms. Tegria has balanced these international stances with her substantial role in mobilizing front line non-violent defense of her community’s homeland, which staged two simultaneous and successful occupations this past summer to interrupt state-led advances in tourism and natural gas extraction on sacred sites within U’wa traditional territory.

Sustainability Initiative director Abby Reyes has walked alongside the U’wa community for 18 years, a commitment sparked by the 1999 assassination of a team of US-based allies of the U’wa community, who were kidnapped while exiting U’wa land then-coveted by LA-based Occidental Petroleum.

The Sustainability Initiative is honored to welcome Ms. Tegria to UC Irvine next week.  The UCI community has three opportunities to interact with Ms. Tegria during her visit:

  • Students: Wednesday, October 19, 10:00-11:00 am. Informal conversation for UCI students with Aura Tegria. In Spanish with English translation. Global Sustainability Resource Center (4th Floor Student Center South). Find out more and RSVP.
  • UCI Affiliates of the Latin American Studies Program: Wednesday, October 19, 12:00-1:00 pm. Lunch seminar with Aura Tegria. In Spanish. Humanities Gateway, Room 1341. Email adriana.johnson@uci.edu for more information and to inquire about availability.
  • Conference Attendees: Thursday, October 20 – Saturday, October 22. Day 1 Plenary with Aura Tegria. World Indigenous Law Conference. Beckman Center. Find out more and RSVP.

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