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Sureños 13, Sureños, Sur13, Southside 13
Founded 1968[1]
Founding location Southern California
Years active 1968 - Present[2]
Territory 35 States in The U.S. primarily in Southern California, Mexico, some parts of Central and South America.[3]
Ethnicity Predominately Mexican-American, including others [2]
Criminal activities Murder,[2] drug trafficking,[2][4] extortion,[2] assault,[2] theft, robbery,[2] fraud, human trafficking[4] and arms trafficking.[5]
Allies Mexican Mafia, Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, MS-13, Rollin 60s
Rivals Norteños,[6][7] Nuestra Familia, Latin Kings,[8] Asian Boyz,[9] People Nation, Folk Nation, Crips, Bloods

Sureños, Sur 13, or Sureñas for females, are groups of loosely affiliated gangs[10] that pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia while in U.S. state and federal correctional facilities. Many Sureño gangs have rivalries with one another and the only time this rivalry is set aside is when they enter the prison system.[4][6][11] Thus, fighting is common among different Sureño gangs even though they share the same common identity. Sureños have emerged as a national gang in the United States.[5] They would ally themselves with the Crips and MS13 in certain U.S. states. Sureños have been documented in the U.S. military, found in both U.S. and overseas bases.[12]


The Sureños' main stronghold is in Southern California. They have heavy presence in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They have a small presence in the midwest; specifically in Chicago. They also can be found in some parts of Mexico. Sureños also maintain relationships with various Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) based in Mexico.[4][5][6] They have been confirmed in 35 different states in the U.S.[3] They are with the Gulf Cartel. In California, the statewide dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has arguably been accepted as the rural community of Delano, California.[13]


The term "Sureño" means Southerner in Spanish. Even though Sureños were established in 1968, the term was not used until the 1970s as a result of the continued conflict between the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia in California's prison system.[4] As a result of these prison wars, all Hispanic California street gangs align themselves with the Sureño or Norteño movement with very few exceptions such as the Fresno Bulldogs and the Maravilla gangs of East Los Angeles.[2] When a Sureño is asked what being a Sureño means, gang members, in absolutely all cases and without any exceptions, answer, "A Sureño is a foot soldier for the Mexican Mafia."[14]

On 2009, members of the Sureños were charged in the murders of rival Norteño gang members Alvaro Garcia-Pena and Intiaz Ahmed. One member of the Sureños plead guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Other members from the Sureños gang received others sentences for their involvement in the shooting.[15]


While "sur" is the Spanish word for south, among Sureños SUR also stands for Southern United Raza.[16] Sureños use the number 13 which represents the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the letter M, in order to pay allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.[3][4][17] Common Sureño gang markings and tattoos include, but are not limited to: Sur, XIII, X3, 13, Sur13, uno tres, trece and 3-dots.[17] Although there are many tattoos used by Sureños, there is only one tattoo that proves or validates membership. The word Sureño or Sureña must be earned.[4] In many parts of the country they will identify themselves with the color blue and sometimes white with a blue bandanna and include wearing sports clothing from teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers (1960s blue jerseys), Dallas Cowboys or the Chicago White Sox (To represent the south side). Most Sureños are of Mexican descent, but some Sureño gangs allow members from various other ethnic backgrounds to join their ranks making Sureños multiethnic.[4] Sureños from Northern California refers to themselves as 'Upstate Sureños' and central California refers to themselves as 'Central Sureños'. Sureños from Southern California refers to Sureños from northern and central California as 'Upstate Sureños'.

Involvement in the Syrian Civil War[edit]

In 2014, two Los Angeles gang members, one belonging to Armenian Power and the other a Sureño, were videotaped in Syria fighting on the side of the Assad government.[18]

Criminal activity[edit]

Sureño groups are involved in every aspect of criminal activity from homicides,[2][19] drug trafficking,[2][20] kidnapping, and assaults.[21] They are also heavily engaged in human trafficking.[4] There have been many high profile criminal cases involving Sureños in a variety of states. Their primary focus is the distribution of various forms of narcotics and carrying out orders handed by the Mexican Mafia. Police departments have a difficult time dealing with this gang because of its decentralized hierarchy at the street level. Law enforcement attempts to limit the influence of the Mexican Mafia over the various Sureno street gangs have been met with little success.By the late 1990s, a federal task force was set up in order to investigate the gang's involvement in illegal drug trade; this resulted in the arrest of several of its members. The authorities confiscated thousands of dollars in drugs and money, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and local news channels.The group has historically quarreled with various rival gangs for placement and competition, which has resulted in many drive-by shootings and deaths. On August 24, 2004, a law enforcement preliminary injunction terminated the active members of the 38th Street gang, out of the streets, banning them from using firearms, alcohol, graffiti and other dangerous materials in public.[22] 38th Street, being an old and large gang, has accumulated countless rivalries in Los Angeles county and other cities where they have established. During the 1980s, 38th Street became heavily involved in drug sales and trafficking became a specialty crime that some gang members perfected. Today 38th Street relies almost exclusively on narcotics sales and distribution as its only source of revenue.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valdez , A. (2000, April 10). Tracking surenos. Police. Law Enforcement Magazine, Retrieved from
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Milkman , H. B., & Wanberg , K. W. (2012). Criminal conduct and substance abuse treatment for adolescents: Pathways to self-discovery and change. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc
  3. ^ a b c Barkan, S. E., & Bryjak, G. J. (2010). Fundamentals of criminal justice, a sociological view. (2 ed.). SudBury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sampson County Sheriff's Office. (2005). Sureños. Retrieved from website:
  5. ^ a b c Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). 2011 national gang threat assessment – emerging trends. Retrieved from website:
  6. ^ a b c Womer, S., & Bunker, R. J. (2010). Strategic threat: narcos and narcotics overview. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 21(1), 81-92. doi: 10.1080/09592310903561486
  7. ^ Idyllic Half Moon Bay caught in war between Norteños and Sureños
  8. ^ Hewitt, R. (Director) (2009). Gangland season 4, ep. 9 "Dog Fights" [Television series episode]. In Pearman, V. (Executive Producer), Gangland. Los Angeles, CA: A&E Television Networks.
  9. ^ Hay, Jeremy (May 22, 2005). "A HARDER EDGE TO GANG VIOLENCE". Press Democrat. Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ Morales, G. (2007). Sureños. Retrieved from
  11. ^ Larence, E. R. (2010). Combating gangs: Federal agencies have implemented a Central American gang . Washington, DC: United States Accountability Office.
  12. ^ McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. "Gangs Increasing in Military, FBI Says". Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  13. ^ Reiterman, Tim (2008-02-24). "Small towns, big gang issues". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-02-23. 
  14. ^ Vinson, J., Crame, J., & Von Seeburg, K. Rocky Mountain Information Network, (2008). Surenos. Retrieved from website:
  15. ^ Sureño gang members stand trial for Norteño shooting published by Julie Brown from
  16. ^ Sureño Tattoos and Symbols: These gang members are loyal to one: the Mexican Mafia
  17. ^ a b Eways, A. (2012, February 13). Sureño gang graffiti: Understanding the art of war . Retrieved from
  18. ^ "Syria Civil War: Los Angeles Gang Duo Join President Assad". 
  19. ^ "Gang member's tattoo told story of 2004 murder | Local & Regional News | Bakersfield Now - News, Weather and Sports". 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 
  20. ^ Squires, J. (2010, November 5). Eight sureno gang members busted during operation groundhog in watsonville already convicted, four sent to state prison. Santa Cruz Setinal. Retrieved from
  21. ^ Stribling, L. (Writer) (2011). Gang member charged after stabbing girlfriend [Television series episode]. In ABC News. Wilmer Minnesota: ABC. Retrieved from
  22. ^ "Delgadillo, Bratton, Perry Announce Crackdown on South L.A.'s 38th Street Gang". Office of Civil Attorney, L.A. 2006-08-24. 

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