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Sureños, Sur13, Southside 13
Sureño gang member tattoo on back 2013-12-20 22-20.jpg
Sureño gang tattooed on Sureño gang member's back.
Founded 1968[1]
Founding location Southern California
Years active 1968 - Present[2]
Territory 35 States in The U.S. primarily in Southern California[3]
Ethnicity Predominately Hispanic including African American and Caucasian [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, Crips, Folk Nation, La Raza Nation, Barrio Azteca, The Avenues, Ese Te Ese, MS-13,[5][6]
Rivals Norteños,[7][8] Nuestra Familia, Fresno Bulldogs,[9] Bloods, Latin Kings, Puro Tango Blast, 18th Street, Asian Boyz[10]

Sureños, Sur 13, Southside ([suˈɾeɲos], Spanish for "Southerners"), or Sureñas for females, are groups of loosely affiliated gangs[11] 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][7][12] 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]


The Sureños' main stronghold is in Southern California where they originated.[4] Sureños also maintain relationships with various Mexican based Drug Trafficking Organizations(DTO).[4][5][7] They have been confirmed in 35 different states in the U.S.[3] In California, the statewide dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has arguably been accepted as the rural community of Delano, California.[13]


Sureño Graffiti in East Bakersfield, California.

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, without exception, answer, "A Sureño is a foot soldier for the Mexican Mafia."[14]



While "sur" is the Spanish word for south, among Sureños SUR also stands for Southern United Raza.[15] 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][16] Common Sureño gang markings and tattoos include, but are not limited to: Sur, XIII, X3, 13, Sur13, uno tres, trece and 3-dots.[16] 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 and can never be taken for granted.[4] In many parts of the country they will identify themselves with the color blue and gray and include wearing sports clothing from teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Kings (on occasions), Los Angeles Lakers, San Diego Padres, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Royals, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Braves. Most Sureños are of Hispanic descent, but some Sureño gangs allow members from various other ethnic backgrounds to join their ranks making Sureños multiethnic.[4]

Criminal activity[edit]

Sureño graffiti in 2007.

Sureño groups are involved in every aspect of criminal activity from homicides,[2][17] drug trafficking,[2][18] kidnapping, and even violent cases of domestic violence against their own girlfriends and family.[19] They are also heavily engaged in human trafficking.[4] There have been many high profile criminal cases involving Sureños in a variety of states. For example, members of the Playboys Gang Sureños were tried for shootings at a car show in Kent, Washington in 2011.[20][21] 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.

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 j Sampson County Sheriff's Office. (2005). Sureños. Retrieved from website:
  5. ^ a b c d Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). 2011 national gang threat assessment – emerging trends. Retrieved from website:
  6. ^ "El Paso Times - Mexican Drug Cartels Strengthen Ties With US Gangs". Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Idyllic Half Moon Bay caught in war between Norteños and Sureños
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Hay, Jeremy (May 22, 2005). "A HARDER EDGE TO GANG VIOLENCE". Press Democrat. Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  11. ^ Morales, G. (2007). Sureños. Retrieved from
  12. ^ Larence, E. R. (2010). Combating gangs: Federal agencies have implemented a Central American gang . Washington, DC: United States Accountability Office.
  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 Tattoos and Symbols: These gang members are loyal to one: the Mexican Mafia
  16. ^ a b Eways, A. (2012, February 13). Sureño gang graffiti: Understanding the art of war . Retrieved from
  17. ^ "Gang member's tattoo told story of 2004 murder | Local & Regional News | Bakersfield Now - News, Weather and Sports". 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2011. 
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ Stribling, L. (Writer) (2011). Gang member charged after stabbing girlfriend [Television series episode]. In ABC News. Wilmer Minnesota: ABC. Retrieved from
  20. ^ Badway, J. U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Marshals Service. (2011). Medina brothers: U.s. marshals need your help . Retrieved from website:
  21. ^ Hunter, S. (2011, September 29). Six enter not guilty pleas in connection with Kent car-show shooting. The Kent Reporter. Retrieved from

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