The Guaycura (Waicura) were a native people of Baja California Sur, Mexico, occupying an area extending south from south of Loreto to Todos Santos. They contested the area around La Paz with the Pericú.
The Guaycura may have come into contact with the Spanish at La Paz as early as the 1530s. Over the following century and a half, they had sporadic encounters with maritime expeditions on the peninsula's coasts. Jesuit missions that drew some of their neophytes from the Guaycura included La Paz (1720), Dolores (1721), Todos Santos (1733), and San Luis Gonzaga (1737). The Guaycura were implicated in the ill-fated Pericú Revolt against the Jesuits in 1734, and they underwent a steep demographic decline during the second half of the eighteenth century. They were probably extinct culturally by around 1800.
A fair number of explorers and missionaries left brief ethnographic notes concerning the Guaycura. The most detained accounts were written by the Alsatian Jesuit Johann Jakob Baegert, stationed at San Luis Gonzaga between 1751 and 1768 (Baegert 1772, 1952, 1982). Baegert took a decidedly sour view of his charges, at one point characterizing them as "stupid, awkward, rude, unclean, insolent, ungrateful, mendacious, thievish, abominably lazy, great talkers to their end, and naïve and childish" (Baegert 1952:80). His views as to the extreme simplicity of Guaycura social organization and belief systems have often been accepted as factual, but they may owe something to the missionary's own acerbic personality and to the several decades of cultural change that had preceded his arrival in Baja California (cf. Laylander 2000).
The Guaycura language is attested by a few texts, but the evidence is not enough to classify it. It is not closely related to other known languages.
- Baegert, Johann Jakob. 1772. Nachrichten von der Amerikanischen Halbinsel Californien mit einem zweyfachen Anhand falscher Nachrichten. Churfürstl. Hof- und Academie-Buchdruckerey, Mannheim.
- Baegert, Johann Jakob. 1952. Observations in Lower California. University of California Press, Berkeley.
- Baegert, Johann Jakob. 1982. The Letters of Jacob Baegert 1749–1761, Jesuit Missionary in Baja California. Dawson's Book Shop, Los Angeles.
- Gursky, Karl-Heinz. 1966. "On the historical position of Waicura". International Journal of American Linguistics 32:41–45.
- Laylander, Don. 2000. Early Ethnography of the Californias: 1533–1825. Coyote Press, Salinas, California.