Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The bases of the Cora economy are agriculture and cattle raising. In the lower lands, maize is the main crop. In much smaller proportions, black beans, squashes, watermelons, cucumbers, melons, sugarcane, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, and chili peppers are also grown. The higher elevations support only maize and small quantities of black beans and squashes. Among the fruit crops are pears, apples, and figs.
Some plants—such as nopal (an edible cactus), mesquite, huamúchil ( Pithecollobium dulce, a tree with edible seeds), tuna (the fruit of the nopal), gourds, and wild plums—are gathered wild. Cora also use wood from the forests.
The abundant pastures in the mountains have permitted the development of livestock raising. Historical accounts of the Cora since the eighteenth century allude to mules, horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, and goats. There has been an increase in animal husbandry since 1975 because of the availability of credit to farmers. Mestizo buyers from the surrounding areas have encouraged the Cora to turn to livestock raising.
Fishing is a secondary economic activity and source of food. Fish are trapped in rivers and gullies. Among the species caught are robalo, bagre, trout, mojarra, enterrador, pescado cuchara, and " burrito ," as well as shrimp and turtles.
Today hunting is solely a ritual activity. Deer, wild pigs, and iguanas are hunted with bows and arrows.
Cora also leave their homes temporarily for farms on the coast, the highlands of Nayarit, Jalisco, or Zacatecas in order to work as day laborers in planting and harvesting various crops.
Industrial Arts. Today handicrafts provide a sizable income. Objects that once had a purely ritual or household use are being made for sale. Cora artisans produce woolen blankets and woolen or cotton bags embroidered with geometrical animal, plant, flower, or ritual designs. They also make items from woven maguey fiber, fashion pottery, and make fine products from deer and wild-pig pelts.
The Cora prefer to sell their handicrafts outside the Sierra in order to take advantage of better prices. For this reason, they journey to Tepic, the capital of the state of Nayarit; in many cases, however, the cost of the travel uses up the increased revenue gained from the better prices.
Trade. Commercial transactions are carried out with cash, on account, or in anticipation of future deliveries. Mestizos like to bring mules to the Cora, who value them highly, and trade them for cattle. The trade is usually two cows for one mule; a single large cow, however, may be traded for a mule. Cattle are also traded for bolts of muslin, metates (grinding stones), saddles, plastic ware, and other manufactured items. Simply put, most of the trading is to the advantage of the outsider.
Agricultural production is primarily for home consumption; part of the harvest is sold, not only when there is a surplus, but also in times of scarcity, if the family needs money for medicines or clothes.
Division of Labor. The labor of an entire family is needed for agriculture and cattle raising. At 7 or 8 years of age, boys begin to work at planting and harvesting. Girls help their mothers with household tasks. Some Cora families are polygynous. In these cases, one wife takes care of the household while the other works with the husband in the fields.
Land Tenure. Land is held communally. It cannot be bought or sold. A family has rights over the land that it works. Land can be rented to outsiders, but this is viewed with suspicion. Orchards can be inherited. The house and its furnishings are private property belonging to adults.