ORIGIN OF THE SURENOS
California’s Hispanic criminal street gangs are divided into the north (norteno) or south (sureno). The dividing line is generally recognized as being near the city of Delano but others argue the dividing line is Bakersfield or somewhere near the area of Kern County.
Historically, Hispanic gangs north of the dividing line have claimed allegiance to the Nortenos and those to the south claimed allegiance to the Surenos. All California Hispanic criminal street gangs claim allegiance to the Nortenos or Surenos, with the exception of the Fresno Bulldogs. Whether it’s on the streets or in the correctional facilities, the Fresno Bulldogs function independently and do not align themselves with Nortenos or Surenos. The Fresno Bulldogs are a unique California based gang that has the power, strength and a large enough membership to stand on its own and remain free from the politics of the Nortenos and Surenos. All other Hispanic criminal street gangs are forced to choose a side whether they want to join in or not.
The word sureno translates to “southerner” in Spanish and the word “sur” translates to the word south. The Sureno gang or gang movement includes the three California “super” gangs–18th Street, Florencia 13 and Mara Salvatrucha–as well as hundreds of other Hispanic gangs. Surenos include all Southern California criminal street gangs except the Maravilla* gangs of East Los Angeles.
The Sureno gang structure is very loose and has no formal rank structure but there are well-known veteranos and “shot callers” who
have influence within the gangs. *The early residents of a lowcost housing project in East L.A. nicknamed the housing project maravillosa (Spanish for marvelous). In the early 1950s various maravillas were responsible for the creation of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Several of the maravilla gangs members becames disillusioned with the newly-formed Mexican Mafia. Many of these maravilla gang members chose to no longer align themselves to the mafia. A gang that developed nearby called itself Maravilla and with the gang’s believe that due to its history and standing within the community, it should not and would not have a loyalty to the Mexican Mafia. Gang members determined they would not pay taxes as other gangs willingly had done. This blatant act of defiance and disrespect resulted in members of the Maravilla gangs being placed on a gang “green light” list by the Mexican Mafia. As a result of this kill on sight order by the Mexican Mafia, gangs claiming allegiance to the Surenos were bitter enemies with the Maravilla gangs on the street. Once incarcerated, however, Maravilla gang members sought protection to avoid being killed by members of the Mexican Mafia. It was not until recently that the “kill on sight” order against the Maravilla sets was recalled by the leadership of the Mexican Mafia.
Currently there are several gangs in the Maravilla area that are loyal to the Mexican Mafia. There are also several Maravilla gangs in that area that aren’t aligned to the Mexican Mafia that are referred to as Los Maravillosos.They are led by those men that were disillusioned by the
EAST L.A. GANGS
The Maravilla (MV) gangs, also called varrios, cover a large part of East Los Angeles and are broken up into various cliques such as Hoyo Mara (the “Hole” because of the lowered terrain it sat in), Ford Mara (after Ford Blvd.), Arizona Mara (a main street in East L.A.), Marillana Mara (MMV, sometimes confused with Mexican Mafia, they were around way before), Rock Mara (after a big rock in the projects), etc.
Maravilla predates the Mexican Mafia but at one time there were a lot of Maravillas in la EME. Joe Morgan, a figurehead for the EME for over 20 years was well known in East Los and Maravilla. There are other Maravilla gangs in the U.S., some may be connected to the East L.A. groups, and others may have just used the same name. Some MV and former EME members did not like the EME trying to tax them and telling them what to do in their own varrio. There was a green light put out by the EME on the MV’s for their rebellion. The MV had to be separated from EME and Sureño sympathizers in the L.A. County jail. To date this green light has not been lifted. One of the shotcallers for la EME is Alfred “Chato” Sandoval from Arizona Maravilla, so there are some MV still loyal to the EME and Sureños.
One of the first barrios in Los Angeles to form its own gang was “White Fence.” The gang was called that because of a white picket fence that ran along much of its territory near railroad tracks near the Los Angeles River and downtown. WF’s original barrio is all of Boyle Heights and WF is still strong along Lorena Street. They allegedly used to have cliques throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Northeast L.A. Maravillas’ original barrio is farther in East L.A. These two gangs have a decades old rivalry, the longest ongoing feud in L.A. Both of these barrios have lost extensive territory and are now midgets compared to their former size, but in actual gang members, they are bigger than ever. There is some evidence that the Hazards, Avenues, Toonerville, and Frogtown were all once cliques off of White Fence, according to veterano members
from White Fence. Kilroy Roybal is with Victory Outreach and was recently in an accident.
PRIMERA FLATS AND 4TH FLATS
These gangs were both historically part of the Aliso Village government housing projects. Primera Flats is of course more notable as far as street
gangs are concerned. It lies approximately three miles east of the Los Angeles City Hall. This area also has street gangs that came into prominence in the early 1940s. It also was originally built for military personnel, but like Hazard, it became a low-income housing project. Primera Flats also had some bitter fights with some of the same gangs that Hazard fought with. It, being closer to downtown, however, also had problems with many of those downtown gangs. Primera Flats, like Maravilla, have fights with street gangs within their own turf.
The government housing project called Ramona Gardens is the oldest type of housing in the East Los Angeles area. It was built for the families of the military in 1941. As World War II waned toward the end of 1945, most of the military families had relocated and families that were either dependent on a stipend from Social Security, or were a low income family started moving in. This “barrio” has actually two separate areas: Big Hazard and Little
Hazard. Hazard got its name from a park at the end of Lancaster Avenue and Soto Street. There also is a street named Hazard. Big Hazard encompasses all the housing area and also the park. Little Hazard, is that area from west of Soto Street along Norfolk and to the railroad tracks across from Lincoln Park. Robert “Robot” Salas (deceased Dec. ’04) was from Hazard and was involved in the first major EME confrontation with the NF at San Quentin Sept. 16, 1968. Old EME shotcaller in the Fed-BOP Adolf “Champ” Reynoso is also from Hazard as is Manuel “Cricket” Jackson. This varrio has also been the focus of much violence over the years. EME David “Big Smilon” Gallardo from Hazard, “Pee-Wee” Aguire from the Aves, and “Cowboy” Therrien from Big Basset were found guilty of killing “Rocky” Luna who was from Hazard and an advisor on the movie by Edward James Olmos, “American Me.” Ana Lizarga, another movie consultant, also was killed. They were angry at her for snitching off a “dope house” and “Charlie Brown” Manriquez for not taking care of business and living like a bum when he got out. “Lives in Hazard” depicts some of these people and also includes a fairly new gang called M.C. Force, or Michigan Criminal Force, named after a street east of there in East L.A. street east of there in East L.A.
Deceased EME shotcaller Benjamin “Topo” Peters claimed this varrio. EME Gilbert “Shotgun” Sanchez (deceased) also lived there. His son “Ray-Ray” dropped out.
VARRIO NUEVO ESTRADA
Hazard Gang also had trouble with Varrio Nuevo Estrada. The Estrada Courts Projects are just off of Olympic Street and just east of Soto Street and west of Lorena. There are many colorful murals in this project. VNE are not found much outside of the Estrada Courts area. Many other L.A. gangs are known even outside of CA. Ray “Mundo” Mendoza and “Eddie Sailor” Gonzales claimed VNE and rolled on the EME in the 70s. VNE has a reputation for being EME informants. EME Jimmy “Smokey” Sanchez is ok at the Bay.
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY (SGV)
The San Gabriel Valley grew tremendously in the 1960s and ’70s. Many families who were originally from East L.A. moved to the SGV. Later, some from SGV moved out to the Inland Empire. Gangs like El Monte Flores, El Monte Hicks, La Puente, Basset Grande, Bolen Parque (Baldwin Park), have been around for decades and have gang members very involved in La EME.
“Sangra” is a very old gang. A former member, “Stumpy” Valencia, was involved in a sanctioned homicide of EME member Alex “Moe” Ferrel. Ferrel had been involved in the rape of a woman outside of Sacramento soon after being paroled. This, combined with his siding with the Nico Velasquez of the Folsom EME faction and against Joe Morgan of the San Quentin faction concerning the BGF war, put him “in the hat.” Velasquez was later killed.
EL MONTE FLORES
El Monte Flores is an old clique that dominated gang activity in the City of Monte for decades. El Monte Hicks is another gang located in the city. David Alvarez from EMH was a SUR/EME rep at the L.A. county jail who would pass green-light lists. Both gangs declared war on North Side Monte and that clique was near the top of the EME green light list for years. Many members of EMF are also EME members. Louie “Pelon” Maciel was a EMF member involved in one of the RICO trails. He was found to be involved in a large drug running group at the L.A. Co. Jail that was busted up in “Operation Hard Candy.” Jo-Jo Perea was a “money man” for the prison gang. “Danger” Validivia was a EMF member who would do hits for La EME and was known to secrete a razor blade under his dentures.
LA PUENTE 13
La Puente or just Puente 13, is another large and old clica. They have since broken up into smaller factions who do not always affiliate with one another. The Happy Homes varrio (not to be confused with Happy Town in Pomona) does affiliate with La Puente on occasion. La Puente can also be found in the Valinda Flats area where they have intruded. Their rivals are Valinda Flats gang members and in recent years there has been violent gang activities in this area. Deceased Folsom EME Nico Velasquez was from La Puente.
Basset Grande, also known as Big Basset, dates back to the 1950s. The turf boundaries of BG varrio are roughly Fransiquito Blvd. on the north, Don Julian on the south, the 605 Freeway on the west, and Sunquist Blvd. on the east. It has had several members involved with La EME. The Huguez brothers are similar to the Grajeda family in that many of their blood relatives have been involved with La EME. A member named “Cowboy” Therion was involved in a RICO trial in L.A. of EME members. Cowboy has “Mafioso” tattooed across his abdomen and has now dropped out of the prison gang.
BOLEN PARQUE 13
Bolen Parque, in the city if Balwin Park, has several gangs in its area. Local citizens and community activists have resorted to painting dark green ivy murals on major streets to keep the tagging down. Gangs are very active in East Side Bolen Parque.
POMONA VALLEY GANGS
Pomona is a large and isolated city in the extreme East of the San Gabriel Valley in L.A. County. It is home to the L.A. County Fair at the famous Ganesha Park. It is home to many different various gangs. The biggest and oldest is the Pomona 12 Street gang named after a street there. It claims its origins back to the 40s. P12 is also called Sharkies and at one time they had their own “official” park which the city has tried to reclaim back from the gangsters. Their symbol is a shark with a “cherry” in its mouth. P12 has had several members in the past in La EME. A few P12 are in Oregon, Washington State, and even some in PA! The secondary gang is Cherry Ville, P12’s longtime rivals, which is at least from the 60s. Their territory lies right up to P12 and centers around Hamilton Park. Then there is P Michoacanos, E/S Carnales, W/S Happy Town, Pomona Sur XIII who are also rivals with P12 and many have now moved to the La Puente area or out to Las Vegas. There was a group which is now mostly defunct called North Side Pomona. There is a West Side Pomona who are also in Washington. There is even a Hazard clique, and a Dog Town clique, 18th Street and MS clique there too. Pomona is in L.A. County but closer to the Inland Empire than it is to L.A. so rivals with most varrios in the Inland Empire. Recent suppression efforts by law enforcement have reduced some of the violence.
INLAND EMPIRE GANGS
The San Gabriel Valley grew tremendously in the 1960s and ’70s, just as the Inland Empire did in the 1980s and ’90s. The greater L.A. area is very spread out; many families from East L.A. moved to the San Gabriel Valley, and some from SGV moved out to the Inland Empire past Fontana, Colton, and Rialto as land became more and more scarce, eating up valuable farmland, orchards, and vineyards.
The Ontario Black Angels are infamous for being the clique of disgraced EME shotcaller “Tupie” Hernandez’ varrio. They have junior cliques such as OVS or Ontario Varrio Sur. One member recently tried to make his bones by attempting to shoot at an Ontario cop. There are the Chino Sinners which “Tupie” got in trouble for when he stepped in while the EME wanted a “green light” on them. His mother also got involved in EME politics that resulted in several of his family being assaulted and in combination with his insults about Joe Morgan and not making a phone call for the carnales (brothers), led to him being stabbed in federal detention. Daryl Castrellon had the Black Angels’ reins in California Department of Corrections, but since parole has picked up “the Bible.” There is still a lot of money to be made in the fast growing Inland Empire! Back in Arizona in 1999, Officer Dale Thrush identified, with help from a CI, a Black Angel member named Frank “Smoky” Alcala, as OVS. He was wanted out of California on a parole violation. He had all the other gang members, from different gangs, scared of him and thinking he was EME. Reports were coming in that he was taxing other members, allegedly for the EME and was a suspect in a home invasion where a stabbing occurred. Alcala was a suspect in a stolen vehicle pursuit then fled on foot and two loaded pistols were left behind. That night he was in the parking lot of a Circle K, having just done a strong arm robbery on a 38th Street gang associate. He was in the process of carjacking the vehicle of a 38th Street gang member. Shots were fired and law enforcement responded. Dale pulled in and was about to exit the vehicle when “Smoky” drove the Dodge Ram right into the driver’s door. Luckily, Dale was able to jump inside. Alcala then rammed the door again. We put 16 rounds into the vehicle and would you believe he was only hit in the arm and butt! These guys are very serious! Along with other tattoos he had a large letter “B” on the back of his left arm and a large letter “A” on his right arm, along with “Ontario” on the back of his neck.
“Spider” Arriaga was an old EME members mistakenly killed a few years ago by his crime partner “Colorado” Arias from Colton (also EME) during a robbery. Members like Roland Berry have been involved in disputes around Bloomas. Recently, there was a police sting operation on EME operating in the IE. Unfortunately, police hit them too late so evidence was minimal. Word is, the EME carnales at Corcoran and Pelican Bay found out what was coming down, got word out and all mail stopped, which just goes to show they have a better network than we do! In Riverside, Casa Blanca, out in Rancho Cucamonga, the Cuca Kings, and Corona has various cliques, the oldest which centers around 6th Street.
Verdugo Gangsters are from San Berdoo (San Bernardino). West Side Verdugo is the predominant gang in the middle of the valley. The major cliques of WSV are 7th Street (CSL), Sur Crazy Ones (SCO), and Little Counts. As a whole though, the entire Verdugo gang has a lot of problems and is constantly being challenged by other gangs from mostly the Los Angeles areas. The two that are currently showing a presence here are Florencia Trece and King Boulevard Stoners (KBS). Then there is the perpetual WSV enemy East Side Trece. We see a lot of LA gang members moving into the area and causing problems, 18th Street being one of them.
NORTH L.A. GANGS
HIGHLAND PARK 13
This gang is located in the area just west of Pasadena. It has a high Hispanic population, and as the case in many of the barrios, a small percentage belong to HP13. They claim origins going back to the early 1940s.
Northeast Los is an old region of LA barrios. Its most famous, and perhaps most infamous gang is the Avenues or Avenidas gang, which is named after the numbered avenues off of Figueroa. They themselves have several cliques such as 43rd Avenue and Cypress Avenues and did not get along at first but later joined together for convenience. The 43rd allegedly broke off of Hazards and the Cypress allegedly broke off Frogtown. The Avenues is a very large gang in numbers and been subject to City/County Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR). Alfred “Tigre” Salinas is from the Aves. EME member “Pee-Wee” Aguirre is from La EME. His brother “Lil One” had been causing problems in the L.A. Co. Jail. EME Black Bob Ramirez (deceased Sept. ‘05) claimed Aves and Canta Ranas.
WEST L.A. GANGS
This gang started on the West Side of Los Angeles around 1965. It was originally made up largely of second generation Hispanic immigrants. As the 18th Street gang began to battle with more established Chicano gangs, they began to recruit outside of the Hispanic community. ILGIA estimates their size in 2006 to be 20,000+ members in over 120 U.S. cities. They are also big in Latin America. According to the Department of Justice, an estimated 60% were illegal immigrants. Colors are often black and grey (Raider colors), dark blue (to show support for SUR13), but they may wear red on the East Coast and beads as well. Common hand signs are forming an “18” or thrown sideways “E” (for Eighteen). Common 18th Street tats include 18, XV3, XVIII, Diesiocho, 666 (=18).
The 18th Street gang has chapters on the North (Hollywood area), in East L.A./County, and in South Central Los Angeles where their traditional enemies are the Florencia 13 gang. They also fight Black P-Stones (R20s) in South Central and in jail. They now have cliques in San Diego, Las Vegas, Inland Empire, the Bay Area, Chicago, Texas Florida, and even a clique in New York. They are big in Portland, Oregon, and in Washington state where they have a web site. They are seen in New Jersey where they fall under La Raza Unida umbrella. They have whole towns claiming allegiance to them in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico with large cliques in Mexico City DF and Tijuana. They even show a clique from Australia on their main 18th Street website!
When it comes to Sureno gangs, MS13 is not the biggest, but by most accounts is the most violent in the U.S. today. The Mara Salvatrucha (MS) gang was originally made up of mostly Salvadorans and originated in the Los Angeles area. During and after the civil war that was going on during the 1980s in El Salvador, many Salvadorans migrated to the Pico-Union District around the area of McArthur Park, which has the highest population density in the United States outside of New York City. Other neighborhoods that they moved into in Los Angeles County were Westlake, Hollywood, San Fernando Valley and East L.A. When the MS first started out, many of their members were called “MS Stoners.” They had long hair and would listen to loud heavy metal music and would drive souped-up muscle cars. A common MS handsign is the index finger and pinky finger held up. Some of the members were also into Satanism and were involved with a Salvadoran National Guard Unit called “Santanas.” There is another MS clique called “Sailor’s” allegedly started by former military members.
Allegedly many MS were initially members of soccer teams. Later, they evolved into a full-fledged gang, in part, to protect themselves from the 18th Street gang that was nearby and victimizing them. This is how Mara Salvatruch was originally translated from Spanish to English by law enforcement when they first learned of this violent gang. “Mara” meant gang, “Salva” was for El Salvador, and “trucha” for beware. However, it turns out that many MS gang members and the Central American community are in agreement that “Mara Salvatrucha” simply means Salvadoran Gang. “Mara” means gang or group, and “Salvatrucha” slang for Salvadoran, hence the meaning Salvadoran Gang. The MS did not consider themselves Sureños for approximately 15 years. Many of the older MS do not have any “13″ markings, just “MS” tattoos. Finally the Mara Salvatrucha joined the Sureño back in 1994, during the Black vs. Brown riots in the Los Angeles County Jail system. Several Mexican Mafia RICO suspects had strong ties to MS and it is now common to see MS13. Their original colors were black from their Santanas roots, but they will also wear blue and white colors, which match the Salvadorian flag. On the East Coast they often wear blue and white beads. The MS have started taxing street vendors, prostitutes, small businesses, and street level drug dealers working in their turf. Failure to pay will most likely result in some type of violence. Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and other Central Americans may join MS, but not exclusively.
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