La Corúa

In the folklore of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, La Corúa is a large snake that protects the water source that it guards. The death of La Corúa means that the source of water  goes dry.

Despite its colossal form, the snake is said to be a rather passive reptile. Its sole function, according to what I have been able to learn, is to watch over our precious agua. Some stories depict La Corúa as having long fangs, which it uses to clean the veins of water. Some folks will tell you that the snake has a cross on its forehead and a "smooth mouth." But if you kill it, as my friend's aunt told her she had done at one of the springs on Tucson's east side, the water will go away. 

What we have here seem to be threads of an ancient belief in a water serpent-a belief held by the Aztecs and the Mayas, and, closer to home, by many of the native peoples of the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. The word corúa is probably of Yaqui origin, and the "co" is the same snaky syllable that you find in the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. I don't have answers to questions about how La Corúa, who exists in the minds and memories of people of Mexican culture, got there. But I can tell you that the legend is not the only juncture at which water and snakes meet in the folklore of this region. “Corúa” is also the word used for a specific kind of irrigation device that pipes water over arroyos and other low places. —Jim Griffith, former coordinator of the Southwest Folklore Center of the University of Arizona Library.

See also Beliefs and Holy Places


Griffith, Jim."A Benevolent Snake, La Corúa guards our precious water supply." Tucson Monthly. May 1998. Pages 14-15.

La Corua - A Sonoran Tradition. Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

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