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Founded1967; 56 years ago (1967)[1]
Founding locationSouthern California, United States
Years active1967–present[2]
Territory35 U.S. states (primarily in southern California, Nevada, Arizona,New Mexico, Texas), Mexico, Canada, Australia, Spain
EthnicityMexican American, Mexican[2]
ActivitiesMurder,[2] drug trafficking,[2][3] extortion,[2] assault,[2] theft, robbery,[2] fraud, human trafficking,[3] and arms trafficking[4]
Notable members

Sureños ([suˈɾe.ɲos]; Spanish: Southerners)‍, Southern United Raza, Sur 13 or Sureños X3 are groups of loosely affiliated gangs[34] 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.[3][27][35] 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.[4]


The Sureños main stronghold is in southern California. They have a heavy presence in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Utah. They have a smaller presence in Illinois, Oklahoma, Georgia, Oregon and Washington. They have spread as far east as New York.[36] Sureños have been documented in the U.S. military, found in both U.S. and overseas bases.[37] They also can be found in some parts of Mexico. Sureños also maintain relationships with various drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico.[3][4][27] They have been confirmed in 35 different states in the U.S.[38] They are with the Gulf Cartel.[16]

The statewide north–south dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has roughly been accepted as the cities of Bakersfield and Delano.[39] Sureños' strongholds in Upstate California are usually in Santa Rosa and Modesto due to a high Mexican immigration population in those cities. Sureños in Los Angeles refer to their members in Central California as "Central Sureños" and Sureños refer to their members in northern California as "Upstate Sureños".


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.[3] As a result of these prison wars, all Hispanic California street gangs align themselves with the Sureño or Norteño movements—with very few exceptions, such as the Fresno Bulldogs and the Maravilla gangs of East Los Angeles, California.[2] When a Sureño is asked what being a Sureño means, members answer, "A Sureño is a foot soldier for the Mexican Mafia."[40]

In 2009, members of the Sureños were charged in the deaths of rival Norteño gang members Alvaro Garcia-Pena and Intiaz Ahmed, who were killed at Alvarado's Bar & Grill in Richmond, California. One member of the Sureños pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Other members from the Sureños gang received other sentences for their involvement in the shooting.[41]

In 2010, 51 Sureños were arrested in a California narcotics sting. The investigation identified eight Sureño gangs involved in various criminal activities, including the distribution of narcotics. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of more than 19 pounds of methamphetamine, a methamphetamine conversion laboratory, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, small amounts of crack cocaine, 25 pounds of marijuana, 35 firearms, and $800,000 in currency and property. The charges against the gang members were conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, street terrorism and firearms violations.[42]


While sur is the Spanish word for south, among Sureños "SUR" also stands for Southern United Raza.[43] Sureños use the number 13—which represents the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the letter M—in order to mark their allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.[38][3][44] Common Sureño gang markings and tattoos include, but are not limited to: Sur, XIII, X3, 13, Sur13, uno tres, trece and 3-dots.[44] Although there are many tattoos used by Sureños, there is only one tattoo that proves or validates membership. The X3 tag can also be commonly spotted in graffiti. The word Sureño or Sureña must be earned.[3] Most Sureños are of Mexican descent, but some Sureño gangs allow members from various other ethnic backgrounds to join their ranks, making Sureños multiethnic.[3] They also favor blue or grey sport clothing, such as Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Rams and sometimes Los Angeles Lakers. Upstate Sureños, however, wear Dallas Cowboys, San Jose Sharks and Oakland Raiders clothing.[citation needed]

Criminal activity

Graffiti, also known as tagging, is used to mark a specific set's territory

Sureño groups are involved in many aspects of criminal activity including homicides,[2][45] drug trafficking,[2][46] kidnapping, and assaults.[47] They are also heavily engaged in human trafficking.[3] 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 Sureño 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 the 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,[clarification needed] banning them from using firearms, alcohol, graffiti and other dangerous materials in public.[48]

Sureños have a stronghold in San Francisco's Mission District, who feud with fellow Sureño factions and Nortenos. Surenos have had a history of beefing with other Sureño individuals, whether it be gang in-fighting, or different Sureno cliques fighting each other. For instance, two rival Sureño gangs fighting over territorial grounds of Southwest Community Park in Santa Rosa, California, lead to the shooting death of an 18-year-old man in 2008. The neighborhood South Park is home to a portion of the city's Angelo Heights Sureños, named after the Angelino Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles in which its original members came from. Sureños also have had territorial fighting in San Jose and Oakland.

See also


  1. ^ Valdez, A. (April 10, 2000). "Tracking Sureños". Police Law Enforcement Magazine.
  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 d e f g h i "Sureños" (PDF). Sampson County Sheriff's Office. 2005.
  4. ^ a b c Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). 2011 national gang threat assessment – emerging trends. Retrieved from website:
  5. ^ "Barrio 18". 27 March 2017.
  6. ^ Speri, Alice (2014-03-05). "LA Gang 'Homies' Claim to Be Fighting in Syria". Vice. Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^ "LA Gang 'Homies' Claim to be Fighting in Syria".
  9. ^ Mallory, S., & Mallory, S. L. (2012). Understanding organized crime. (2nd ed., pp. 218-220). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.
  10. ^ Bruneau, T., Dammert, L., & Skinner, E. (2011). Maras: Gang violence and security in central america. (st ed., p. 28-29, 32). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  11. ^ Abadinsky, H. (2010). Organized crime. (9th ed., p. 189-190). Belmont, CA: Wadesworth Publishing.
  12. ^ The fascinating history of the Sureño Mongol, Ruben Cavazos Andrew Eways, (February 20, 2015)
  13. ^ Oldie But Baddie: El Monte Flores Gang Richard Valdemar, (May 20, 2009)
  14. ^ "2011 National Gang Threat Assessment".
  15. ^ As those killed at Tequila KC are laid to rest, the suspects possible gang connections KCTV (October 10, 2019)
  16. ^ a b Gang-Drug Trafficking Organization Connections Affecting Suburban Areas (April 2008)
  17. ^ Mexican Mafia: Dangerous Gang
  18. ^ Outlaw motorcycle gangs United States Department of Justice (May 8, 2015)
  19. ^ People v. Contreras (November 28, 2016)
  20. ^ Playboy Sureno 13 gang member found guilty in assault case WREG-TV (July 21, 2016)
  21. ^ United States of America v. Michael Anthony Torres (September 6, 2017)
  22. ^ King of the Norf Jeff Weiss, (2019)
  23. ^ The monster of Atwater Village Andrew Eways, (February 8, 2013)
  24. ^ "The Vineland Boys Gang". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  25. ^ Global Organized Crime: A 21st Century Approach Mitchel P. Roth (2017)
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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. S2CID 143327189.
  28. ^ "Idyllic Half Moon Bay caught in war between Norteños and Sureños". The Mercury News. 4 September 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  29. ^ People v. Ramirez (January 23, 2017)
  30. ^ Los Angeles Gangs and Hate Crimes, Police Law Enforcement Magazine February 29, 2008
  31. ^ Hay, Jeremy (May 22, 2005). "A HARDER EDGE TO GANG VIOLENCE" (PDF). Press Democrat. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 15, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  32. ^ Moxley, R. Scott. "We Don't Care Gang Killer Begs Judges To Care About His Trial Complaint", OC Weekly, July 2013.
  33. ^[bare URL]
  34. ^ Morales, G. (2007). "Sureños". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011.
  35. ^ Larence, E. R. (2010). Combating gangs: Federal agencies have implemented a Central American gang. Washington, DC: United States Accountability Office.
  36. ^ "Gangs of North Carolina" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  37. ^ McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. "Gangs Increasing in Military, FBI Says". Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  38. ^ a b Barkan, S. E., & Bryjak, G. J. (2010). Fundamentals of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View. (2nd ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  39. ^ "Surenos 2008 Special Gang Report". Public Intelligence REGIONAL INFORMATION SHARING SYSTEMS. February 4, 2010. {{cite news}}: |first= missing |last= (help)
  40. ^ Vinson, J.; Crame, J.; Von Seeburg, K. (2008). "Sureños" (PDF). Rocky Mountain Information Network.
  41. ^ Brown, Julie (29 November 2012). "Sureño gang members stand trial for Norteño shooting".
  42. ^ "51 Surenos were arrested in California Narcotics Sting. Perris MaraVilla 13 is just one of the sureno Ganga In the South Side".
  43. ^ "Sureño Tattoos and Symbols". Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  44. ^ a b Eways, A. (February 13, 2012). "Sureño gang graffiti: Understanding the art of war".
  45. ^ "Gang member's tattoo told story of 2004 murder | Local & Regional News | Bakersfield Now - News, Weather and Sports". 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  46. ^ Squires, J. (November 5, 2010). "Eight sureno gang members busted during operation groundhog in watsonville already convicted, four sent to state prison".
  47. ^ Stribling, L. (Writer) (2011). "Gang member charged after stabbing girlfriend (Television series episode). In ABC News. Wilmer Minnesota: ABC".
  48. ^ "Delgadillo, Bratton, Perry Announce Crackdown on South L.A.'s 38th Street Gang" (PDF). Office of Civil Attorney, L.A. August 24, 2006.

External links