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Norteño tattoo with 14 for the fourteenth letter in the alphabet and Norte ("North")
|Founding location||Northern California|
|Territory||Primarily Northern California and Central California, and other U.S. states|
|Ethnicity||Predominately Mexican-American, Multiracial|
|Criminal activities||Murder, Drug trafficking, arms trafficking, assault, Extortion, auto theft, burglary, robbery|
|Allies||Nuestra Familia, Latin Kings, People Nation, Bloods (certain sets), Crips (certain sets)|
|Rivals||Sureños, Mexican Mafia, Fresno Bulldogs, MS-13, Aryan Brotherhood, Nazi Lowriders|
The Norteños (Spanish: [noɾˈteɲos] meaning Northerners, Norteñas for females), are the various, loosely affiliated street gangs that pay tribute to the Nuestra Familia while in Federal and State correctional facilities. Norteños may refer to Northern California as Norte, Spanish for "north." Their biggest rivals are the Sureños from Southern California. The statewide dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has roughly been accepted as the rural community of Delano, California.
In 1968, Mexican American inmates of the California state prison system separated into two rival groups, Norteños (northerners) and Sureños (southerners), according to the locations of their hometowns (the north–south dividing line is near Delano, California). Norteños, affiliated with the Nuestra Familia, were prison enemies of the Southern Latinos, who are composed of members and affiliates of La Eme, better known as the Mexican Mafia. While the Mexican Mafia had initially been created to protect Mexicans in prison, there was a perceived level of abuse by members of La Eme towards the imprisoned Latinos from rural farming areas of Northern California. The spark that led to the ongoing war between Norteños and members of the Mexican Mafia involved a situation in which a member of La Eme allegedly stole a pair of shoes from a Northerner. This event put into motion the longest-running gang war in the state of California.
Norteños are most usually found in Northern California, with strong presences in cities such as Oakland, Salinas, Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, Turlock, Stockton, Modesto, Santa Rosa, Fresno, Richmond and a very small presence in the Northern part of the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area. They are also in other states including Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Georgia.[better source needed]
Norteños have trafficked drugs across the Mexican border. Their receiving members include other Norteños, Sinaloa Cartel and also in few cases Mexican Narcs.
Norteños use the number 14 which represents the fourteenth letter of the alphabet, the letter N, in order to pay allegiance to Nuestra Familia. It is sometimes written in Roman numerals as XIV, or a hybrid of Roman and Arabic numerals, X4. Norteño emblems and clothing are based on the color red, and sometimes black. A typical Norteño outfit is being "flamed up" including a red belt, red shoes, and red shoelaces. They will also favor sports team apparel that shows their affiliation through symbolism such as the Chicago Bulls, UNLV, K-Swiss, Raiders, and San Francisco 49ers.  Some Norteños will tattoo themselves with four dots . A Norteño derogatorily refers to a Sureño as a "scrap" (Hispanicized scrapa) or "Sur (sewer) rat". Norteños also lay claim to images of the Mexican-American labor movement, such as the sombrero, machete, and "Huelga bird," symbols of the United Farm Workers. Unlike their Southern rivals, Norteños align themselves with black gangs such as the Black Guerilla Family, Crips, and Bloods, mostly in Prison Facilities, due to sharing common enemies in The Mexican Mafia and Aryan Brotherhood.
Norteños are engaged in a variety of criminal activity but focus mainly on the street level distribution of narcotics. Like many other gangs, their biggest source of revenue is drug sales.
Operation Black Widow
Federal law enforcement agencies, long unable to infiltrate the group, began to step up their investigations in the late 1990s. In 2000 and 2001, 22 members were indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges including several who were allegedly serving as high-ranking gang leaders while confined in Pelican Bay. Thirteen of the defendants pleaded guilty; the other cases are still ongoing. Two of the defendants face the death penalty for ordering murders related to the drug trafficking. The largest of the federal investigations was Operation Black Widow. In the aftermath of Operation Black Widow, the five highest ranking leaders of the Norteños were transferred to a federal supermaximum prison in Florence, Colorado.
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