Along the coastal plain of Nayarit in the sixteenth century, the Spanish conquerors encountered a series of petty domains of greater or lesser influence, among which Aztátlan, Centícpac, and Tzapotzingo were the most prominent. The ruling town of these domains was on the coast and was in the hands the Totorame. Nevertheless, the domain of Aztátlan had incorporated some of the villages belonging to the Cora and the Zayahueco. The domain of Centícpac had also succeeded in dominating several Cora and Zayahueco villages and turning them into tributaries.
The people of the mountains, who needed to obtain salt from the coast, came down from time to time to trade for salt, fish, and meat. They brought with them maize, beans, sotol wine, honey, wax, deer and wild-pig skins, precious feathers, and caged birds.
Because of the need for salt, the Cora fell under the power of the Spanish, who set up garrisons at the points where the salt routes descended from the mountains. Among the salt fields were those of Olita (near the present town of Acaponeta), where the Cora provisioned themselves with this valued commodity. Under the pressure of Spanish control of the trade routes, the Cora decided in 1721 to appeal to the viceroy of New Spain, Baltasar de Zúñiga, Marquis of Valero. Led by Chief Tonati of the Mesa del Nayar, a delegation proposed to the viceroy that the Indians would accept the rule of the Spanish Crown if the following conditions were met: Cora rights to their lands and their native government would be respected from then on; the Spanish would also respect equivalent rights among the other natives of the Sierra; the Cora would not have to pay any more tribute; they would have free access to the towns of Acaponeta and Mexcaltítan to obtain salt, free of taxes; and all disputes and problems would be resolved by the viceroy alone.
After the return of the delegation, the Spanish seized Mesa del Nayar on 17 February 1722, and a new series of events unfolded. The Spanish established missions and forts at Santa Teresa in Cuaimaruzi and Santísima Trinidad on the Mesa. They also founded a string of villages along what was then called the "Frontier of San Luis Colotlan," within what is now the state of Jalisco. These villages were designed to support mining centers, such as Los Bolaños, from the attacks by the Coras-nayaritas, who still continued to oppose the Conquest. Included in this frontier were San Sebastián, San Andrés Cohamiata, and Santa Catarina, whose economic base was the salt trade. The Sierra was then fully incorporated into the colonial empire and became part of the Nuevo Reino de Toledo.
From the beginning, Jesuits spread Christianity among the Cora. The Jesuits were banished from New Spain by Charles III in 1767. After they left, the Franciscans were put in charge of evangelizing the Cora. The Franciscans retired from the region a hundred years later to escape the fighting set off by the War of Independence.
The mining centers of Bolaños and Zacatecas declined during the mid-nineteenth century. Mestizos from these regions moved into the Sierra to seize agricultural lands occupied by the Tepecano, Huichol, and Cora. In 1857 these seizures provoked an armed reaction by the Indians. Under the command of Manuel Lozada, Indians fought for their independence during the governments of Benito Juárez and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. Lozada was eventually defeated, and the Cora, Huichol, and Tepehuan returned to living in their closed Indian worlds.
In 1895 the ethnologist Carl Lumholtz surveyed the Sierra Madre Occidental and noted the land conflicts set off by the mestizo land grabbing.
On 25 August 1939 the municipio of El Nayar, containing a large majority of Cora, was created, with its capital at Jesús María. In 1962 the Franciscans returned to continue the work of evangelization. Led by a missionary bishop over the Cora, Huichol, and Tepehuan area, they worked at rebuilding the eighteenth-century churches. The Instituto Nacional Indigenista entered the region in 1967. They set up the first medical service among the Cora, organized bilingual assistant extension workers, and implemented national action programs to aid the Indians.
Current relations between the Cora and their Huichol and Tepehuan neighbors are cordial up to a point, generally the point at which land claims are disputed. On the other hand, land claims are a constant problem between Cora and mestizos.