Identification. The Cora are an ethnic group who live almost exclusively in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. The terms "Nayares," "Nayaritas," and "Coras-nayaritas" are derived from the name of an ancient political-religious leader. In 1722, when the Cora were conquered by the Spaniards, the mummy of the Great Nayar was discovered on the Mesa del Nayar. He was at one time the principal Cora oracle, through which the Sun responded to Cora queries. The mummy was taken to Mexico City to be judged by the Holy Inquisition. In 1723 the Inquisition condemned it to the flames "por ser falsos y prohibidos los cultos y sacrificios con que le solemnizaban . . . los nayaritas ... " ("because the rites and sacrifices which they, the Nayaritas, believe in are false"). It is interesting to note that the state was named "Nayarit," after this legendary personage, despite the inquisitorial condemnation.
Location. The present territory of the Cora is bounded on the north by the state of Durango; on the east by the mestizo communities of San Juan Peyotán, Santa Rosa, Ejido de Higuera Gorda, and Huaynamota, and the Huichol community of San Andrés Cohamiata; on the south by the right bank of the river formed by the rivers Jesús María and Chapalanga as they join before they discharging into the Río Santiago; and on the west by the coastal plain of Nayarit. The region that the Cora occupy has an area of 4,912 square kilometers. The majority of their territory is within the Sierra of Nayarit, a place that is mountainous and without level ground except for the Valley of Huajimic and regions around Camotlán and Santa Teresa. The Sierra of Nayarit is a mountain complex that runs from 21°30′ to 23°00′ N. The Cora inhabit lands with elevations ranging from 460 to 2,500 meters above sea level. Their territory is made hospitable in the south by the waters of the Río Santiago, in the east by those of the Río Jesús María, and in the north by those of the Río San Pedro.
The Cora live primarily in ten communities located in three municipios: El Nayar, Rosa Morada, and Acaponeta, all in the state of Nayarit. Four of these communities—Jesús María, Mesa del Nayar, Santa Teresa, and San Francisco—are the most important. The other six—San Lucas, Saycota, San Blasito, Rosarito, San Juan Corapan, and San Pedro Ixcatán—are of lesser importance and surround the primary communities.
Demography. When the Spanish arrived, small groups of Cora were scattered throughout the mountains. How many Cora there were at that time is unknown. At the end of the fourteenth century, there were between 2,500 and 3,000. The population rose to 6,242 in 1960 and to 7,043 in 1970. The 1990 census registered 11,434 Cora living in Nayarit and 489 living in other states.
Linguistic Affiliation. Cora is a member of the Uto-Aztecan Language Family. When the Spanish arrived in Nayarit, the following languages were being spoken: Zayahueco, Totorame, Tecual, Tecualme, Tecoxquin (also spelled Tecosquin), Coano, Cora, Huichol, and Tepehuán. Most of these languages have since disappeared; only the Cora, Huichol, and Tepehua, mountain people who entrenched themselves in the highlands, have retained their indigenous languages.