The area was occupied and ruled by the indigenous peoples until 1564, when Francisco de Ibarra crossed the Sierra Madre Occidental from Durango and conquered the area for Spain. In 1565 prospectors discovered silver veins and the town of Copala was founded to serve the mines. The town was named after a mythical city of gold for which de Ibarra had unsuccessfully searched in northern Mexico.
The economy of Copala is based on tourism, mining, and agriculture.
- Benito Ramírez Meza (1993) Economía y Sociedad en Sinaloa, 1591-1900, Culiacán: Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa, p.24.
- Luis Navarro Garcia (1967) Sonora y Sinaloa en el Siglo XVII, Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, p.14-17.
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