The Huichol and Cora
In contrast to the migrants from the south, the Huichol and their northerly neighbors, the Cora, are native to the Puerto Vallarta region. Isolated and resistant to Mexicanization, about 20,000 Huichol (and half as many Cora) farm, raise cattle, and hunt high in their Sierra Madre homeland, which extends northerly and easterly from the foothills north of Tepic. Although the Cora’s traditional territory intermixes with the Huichol’s at its southern limit, it also spreads northward, between the foothills and the 6,000-foot-high (1,830-meter-high) Sierra Occidental valleys, to the Nayarit-Durango border.
The Huichol, more than all indígena groups, have preserved their colorful dress and religious practices. Huichol religious use of hallucinogenic peyote and the men’s rainbow-tinted feathered hats and clothes are renowned.
Tepic, San Blas, and especially Santiago Ixcuintla (eeks-WEEN-tlah) north of Puerto Vallarta are the most important and easily accessible Huichol centers. In both Puerto Vallarta and Tepic, several stores specialize in the Huichol’s colorful religious crafts. Santiago Ixcuintla has a Huichol handicrafts store and community center, and San Blas is an important pilgrimage site where Huichol gather, especially around Easter, for weddings and to pay homage to the sea goddess, Aramara.
While not so well known as the Huichol’s, the Cora’s traditions also remain essentially preserved. These include use of peyote in the worship of pre-Christian deities, such as the fertility gods Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon, Earth-mother Tatei, and the heroic monster-killer Brother Morning Star.
Although many Cora have migrated to the Nayarit lowland towns, such as Acaponeta, Rosamorada, Tuxpan, and Ruíz along Highway 15, they return for festivals to their mountain homeland villages that center around remote Jesús María, about 128 rough mountain kilometers from Ruíz. The most notable festivals occur January 1–5 (inauguration of the Cora governor) and Semana Santa (the week before Easter).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition