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Mexican Mafia, Black Hand.jpg
Mexican Mafia, Eagle.jpg

The Mexican Mafia (aka, La Eme) is both a prison gang and an organized crime syndicate. Which is the 2nd oldest gang in North America (only a few years behind the Latin Kings), the oldest prison gang in the western Hemisphere, and the oldest Latino crime syndicate north of Aztlan. One that was established 120 years ago in the United States (California) in 1957.


Overview of La Eme[]

The Mexican Mafia (aka, La Eme) is a prison gang that has been around since the second half of the 20th century. It was one of the vicious crime syndicates and nationwide prison gangs which challenged and undermined the power of the Italian Mafia before the emergence of the Sixth World.[1] As of the year 2021 the Mexican Mafia is still an active prison gang though it is not one of the ethnic syndicates which joined the Mafia in the early decades of the Sixth World.[2]

Fifth World[]

The "Mexican Mafia" was founded in the California Department of Corrections during the 1950s by American-born Mexican-Americans (Chicanos) from the barrios of Los Angeles. It started as a self-protection gang, established to protect it's members (specifically) and the Latino inmates (generally speaking) from the predatory white and black gangs that dominated that prison facility at the time. It's a gang consisting of members who for most of their adult lives were incarcerated.

In the late 20th century most of its members served time at the super-maximum prisons both in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Florence in Colorado) and in the California Department of Correction (Pelican Bay) or were locked up in the most secure block of the maximum security prisons within the penal systems (often in rooms for 23 hours a day, with 24 hour video surveillance). Most of the members in the Mexican Mafia (aka, La Eme) were American-born Mexican-Americans and many of them were 2nd generation or more. To be accepted into the prison gang, you had to kill someone for the gang while in prison. Every member of the gang a confirmed or suspected killer and all were expected to kill anyone that "La Eme" ordered killed.

Soon after it's establishment it ran the prison where it was founded, a notorious gladiator school (the Deuel Vocational Institution). In an attempt to break up the gang, the California Department of Corrections relocated members to other prisons in the state. Where they proved themselves to be the most ruthless gang and by the 1960s it was the most powerful prison gang in California. It soon allied with what became the most murderous prison gang in the United States, the Aryan Brotherhood. They began a longstanding alliance and partnership, aimed at controlling the prison rackets and in the wars against the other major Latino prison gang in California, the Nuestra Familia and its ally, the African-American Black Guerilla Family.

During the 1970s, the Mexican Mafia and rival prison gangs (and independents) had displaced the Italian Mafia in California's heroin rackets, with "La Eme" running the heroin trade in the barrios of East Los Angeles and various barrios in other cities across Southern California. They were bringing in 10-12 lbs of heroin a week into the United States, earning $10 million a year from the drug trade. La Eme had also infiltrated several community programs that received federal financing. In which they misappropriated funds, cashed employee checks for "ghost" workers, and received payment for nonexistent services. Members were also involved in bank robberies, often in partnership with the Aryan Brotherhood, including a Fresno robbery in 1967 in which they take was $111,500. Among the prison gangs the Mexican Mafia was by this time the most professional when it came to committing crimes.[1]

In the 1990s, they made a play for control of southern California's underworld by establishing their dominance over the Latino street gangs (the Sureños), including the two largest street gangs west of the Mississippi River, 18th Street (aka, Dieciocho) and Mara Salvatrucha (aka, MS-13). Soon afterwards they used those gangs to spread their influence toward other Latino communities across the United States, all the way to the East Coast. During that time they got the Hollywood treatment which produced two movies loosely based on the story of the Mexican Mafia, which were a biographical crime drama (American Me) and a crime-drama film that was very loosely based on "La Eme", (Blood In Blood Out).

In the process they used race as a tool to achieve control of the streets. Which started in 1993 when they directed the Latino gangs of Southern California to go to war against black gangs. Most of the gangs that were targeted were sets of the Crips. In various neighborhoods and high schools race wars erupted between Latino and black gangs, and in some neighborhoods the Latino gangs even targeted black civilians and firebombed black homes.[2][3] During the late 1990s, they also ordered a "greenlight" on those Asian gangs that were aligned with the Crips, such as the Tiny Rascal Gang (while ordering Sureños to leave alone those Asian gangs aligned with the Latinos, known as South Side Chinos).[4] In 2004, the greenlight was lifted on the Asian gangs that were targeted, except for the Tiny Rascal Gang (which is majority Cambodian).[5][6] By the late 2000s, most of the localized race wars had ended due to police crackdowns and the Mexican Mafia having established its dominance. Some of the black gangs were even being taxed by the Mexican Mafia.[7][8]

They also established partnerships with some of the drug cartels of Mexico; (the Tijuana Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and La Familia Michoacana). They worked for the Tijuana Cartel in not only facilitating the smuggling of drugs into the United States but also illegal aliens and they did contract murders for them. Some members of "La Eme" joined the cartel becoming hitmen, bodyguards, smugglers, and drug distributors. Others deployed the gangs under their control to help the cartel in the smuggling and distribution of drugs into the United States, the collection of debts owed to the cartels, and carrying out hits for them north of the border. They also were expanding into Mexico. It wasn't long before they started working with other cartels, though their strongest relationship continued to be with the Tijuana Cartel. During the 1990s, the Mexican Mafia was earning conservatively $10s of millions a year from its drug trafficking (mostly heroin and methamphetamine) and the taxes it collected from the gangs, including over $12 million a year from the 18th Street gang alone.[9][10]

By the first decade of the 21st century, the Mexican Mafia and the Mexican cartels nearly controlled all of the heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana distribution in southern California. A pyramidal organization governed by the Mexican Mafia "taxed" the Latino street gangs, mediated territorial disputes, and punished those who broke the rules or defied La Eme. They supplied the black gangs who were at the bottom of the region's drug underworld with the drugs they needed to deal crack cocaine on the streets.[11][12] It may have been earning by this time over $100 million a year.[13] The Mexican Mafia was arguably the most powerful domestic organized crime syndicate in the United States. Though the Italian Mafia (La Cosa Nostra) had x10 to x33 more people (with 3,000-5,000 members) and was making anywhere from x100 to x1,000 more money ($7-30 billion), it had been eclipsed in power by La Eme.

While the Italians were involved in sports betting rackets, construction rackets, and so on in the greater New York metropolitan area, they no longer called the shots in the underworld. The Mexican Mafia had power and influence within the prisons of America that the Italian Mafia no longer had. It had a relationship with the Mexican drug cartels that only a few other Chicano prison gangs in Texas had. They controlled an army of 10s of thousands on the streets unlike the Italian Mafia which had no army of street gangs at its command. It was a major trafficker of drugs at the national level unlike the Italians. Last but not least it's control of the underworld in southern California was greater than the control the Five Families ever had in the streets of New York City.[14]

Sixth World[]

As the Aztlaner culture is both meta-friendly and pro-Awakened, and has no problem with augmentation, it is likely that the Mexican Mafia has likewise adapted to that worldview. Considering that it's Fifth World ideology centered around "La Raza" (chosen people: Mexicans) and "Aztlan" (reconquest of southwest United States), and its members reject Christianity and immerse themselves in Aztec history, it is likely that "La Eme" is aligned with both Aztechnology and the David Cartel. The Sixth World analog for "La Eme" would be the Seoulpa Rings which are basically street-level organized crime and use street gangs as their foot soldiers, except "La Eme" in addition to being prison-based would operate at a national-level with hundreds of gangs unlike the individual Rings which operate only in a district or city.



In "La Eme" there are no ranks, it is more like a prison-based criminal brotherhood. All members of "La Eme" are known as "Carnales" (Brothers), and on the streets they are known as "Emeros" and "Big Homies". Theoretically all of the "Carnales" are equal. In reality there is an informal hierarchy, in which some members have more power than others. Members who have acquired their influence due to their greater intelligence and cunning, being far more ruthless, demonstrating superior business acumen and management skills, and having more ambition.

Originally it started out having a paramilitary structure with generals, captains, lieutenants, and soldiers.[15] Due to being hit and nearly destroyed by RICO cases in the 1990s, La Eme was forced to change and it adopted a loose structure without a centralized leadership, transforming into a criminal association or brotherhood. Each member has a lot of autonomy when it comes to how he conducts his business. As long as there is no conflict, the carnale is his own boss. He is expected to pay the Mexican Mafia 33% of his illicit proceeds. All members have an equal vote and all members get to vote on any decisions that will affect the Mexican Mafia as an entity. If the decisions affect only a specific institution, only those incarcerated at that institution get to vote.[16]


Those with power in "La Eme" are known as "shotcallers". Who may control the Latino population within a prison, may control the prison itself, control various gangs on the streets, or even control the underworld in a city.

While some of these "shotcallers" may be out on the streets, usually they are locked up. Despite this they run operations on the streets, even if they are locked up in the isolated ward or block of a maximum prison. Some of them have no territory, controlling international drug smuggling rings or regional drug distribution networks consisting of members from one or more gangs.

Members who are not shotcallers, if incarcerated work as hitmen for "La Eme" among the inmate population, as its tax collectors, and so on. Those on the outside work either as liaisons with the gangs or other crime syndicates, as the syndicate's elite hitmen, or run their own small crew which traffics drugs, runs an automobile theft ring, operates a prostitution ring, is into committing armed robbery, etc.

The way the Mexican Mafia is organized has been its greatest strength and weakness. As every member is theoretically equal, it has resulted in too many "Indian chiefs". Resulting in Machiavellian politics and the inability to become an upper tier national crime syndicate rivaling any of the Latin drug cartels, Russian Vory, Chinese Triads, or other similar groups.

On the other hand it has made them far more immune and resilient against infiltration by law enforcement, betrayal by turncoats, or either RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) or CCE (Continuing Criminal Enterprise) in comparison to other criminal organizations (the Triads being a notable exception, who are nearly impenetrable to Western law enforcement and incredibly difficult to dismantle). When faced with a RICO or CCE indictment, in most cases only 1 or 2 "carnales" would be convicted (along with various affiliated street gang members). Which was an advantage compared to the Italian Mafia which would suffer the arrest and incarceration of dozens of members in the major cases and the temporary crippling of a targeted family and sometimes the disintegration of said family.



It's a mostly Latino crime syndicate, whose membership is exclusively male. The Mexican Mafia accepted only Chicanos (Mexican-Americans) or males from Chicano inner city neighborhoods (who grew up around Chicanos).[17] Occasionally it accepted those of mixed-blood or of other racial or ethnic backgrounds. Historically this included in the late 20th century; Joe "Pegleg" Morgan (Slavic), Mike Delia (Italian), Raymond "Huero Shy" Shyrock (white), Mike "Jap Mike" Kudo (Japanese), Manuel "Mad Korean" Enerva (half-Korean, half-Mexican), Jesse "Cheneno" Jordan (half-black, half-Chicano), and Mher Darbinyan (Armenian). At least one of the non-Latinos became a shotcaller, the legendary Joe "Pegleg" Morgan.

The Mexican Mafia recruited Joe "Pegleg" Morgan in 1970. Morgan was feared and highly respected both within the prison system and on the streets. He was known as "Pegleg" because of his prosthetic leg. Though of Slavic descent, he had been a member of a Chicano street gang. He read, wrote, and spoke Spanish fluently and having been raised in Los Angeles, was proud of the Mexican heritage. Morgan earned a reputation of being a ruthlessly violent and cunning individual. He established strong ties with the Italian Mafia, various Los Angeles-based street gangs, and Mexican drug traffickers. By 1972, Morgan had risen to become the Mexican Mafia's figurehead leader and in that same year he solidified the alliance between the Aryan Brotherhood and the Mexican Mafia. He was also the one who was largely responsible for La Eme's expansion into the streets. Pegleg Morgan died in 1993 from cancer at 64 years of age, at which time he was still the "godfather" of the Mexican Mafia.[18][19]


Though women are not accepted into "La Eme" they play a vital role in its operations. Women are given titles which come with their own job descriptions. At the lower-levels are the "secretarias" and "female facilitators". One of the duties of the "Secretarias" (secretaries) is to procure disposable communication devices for the incarcerated members so they can secretly and securely communicate with gang members on the outside.

The "female facilitators" are normally dating either a gang member or someone within the Mexican Mafia. Responsibilities include the placing or removal of money from a member's account, relaying messages to the inmates, assisting in limited criminal activities, and when a "secretaria" is not available, establishing a line of communication between gang members (which in the 20th century was a phone line, in the Sixth World there would be more options).

At the upper-levels are the "Señoras" (Madams) who are normally the wives and girlfriends of Mexican Mafia members, though in one case it was a daughter. These women usually only associate with other mafia wives, and will often wield power equivalent to that of their locked up husbands. It is the women who provide the adhesive binding the criminal operations of the locked up Mafioso who is for all intents and purposes the figurehead, providing la "señora" with the authority or street cred on the streets.[20][21]

Women were also used by the Mexican Mafia to gather intelligence for the gang. Their girlfriends (and family members) provided assistance and intelligence through their employment. Law enforcement discovered that those who had government jobs were using government computers to look up up information about persons of interest, such as their residence and automobile registration.[22] They also often used women to smuggle drugs or other contraband into prisons during visiting hours, carrying the package in their cavities.



Being a crime syndicate which was established within prison, recruits among the inmate population, and whose headquarters continues to be based within the penal system it's culture is shaped by penal culture. Which is a brutal view of the world, in which no insult (real or imagined) can go unanswered and results in either a vicious beating or murder. The authorities are the enemy and are to be defied, manipulated, bribed, circumvented, blackmailed, or murdered. Survival at all costs is paramount and the accumulation of power over your fellow inmates, the prison system, the streets, and the communities is the objective.


The members of "La Eme" were introduced to Asian philosophy by one of its Asian members (Mike "Jap Mike" Kudo), who introduced them to the samurai code (bushido) and the Book of Five Rings, which is a book on Japanese swordsmanship and martial arts by the legendary Miyamoto Musashi, the 17th century Japanese swordsman. All members of the Mexican Mafia are required to read the ancient Chinese military treatise from the 5th century BC, The Art of War by the brilliant strategist and general Sun Tzu. Most members of "La Eme" get deep into the history and culture of Pre-Colombian Mexico. They study the history of the ancient warrior tribes of Mexico (e.g. the Aztecs and Toltecs)[23][24]

Code of Honor[]

Though it's an extremely brutal gang, it's members do have a sort of code that they live by. No crime syndicate or gang is completely honorable, but the Mexican Mafia is known for honoring business and political agreements far more than other prison gangs and drug trafficking groups in the Southwest. It is also against the murder of children, especially pre-adolescent kids and most of all toddlers. It's one of the reasons they later forced the Latino street gangs to stop doing drive-by shootings. Adolescent kids who gang-banged were fair game, they chose the life.

In one infamous incident in El Monte (Los Angeles County) in 1995, "La Eme" ordered a hit on a drug dealer and it went horribly wrong as the two hitters went overboard. They not only killed the target but his sister, her 5-year old daughter, her 6-month old son, and a friend of the family. The Mexican Mafia was furious that they killed the toddler and his sister, and ordered hits on both of them. One ended up on death row, where they tricked him into participating in a basketball game. Once his blood was pumping fast, they stabbed him in the heart, and he bled out fast.[25] In 2005 in San Bernardino, in an Eme-ordered hit, two men were killed in a home and a toddler's foot was accidentally shot. The Mexican Mafia likewise put a greenlight on the shooter, for to them it was unforgivable that the toddler was shot, even if it was a mistake.[26]

Training for War[]

Every member of the Mexican Mafia who was incarcerated trained day after the day in the use of violence and to condition his body. Members who were incarcerated could be seen in the yards, practicing how to fight with a shank and where to stab to kill.[27] Every day, members of La Eme were seen in the yard intensively exercising (jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, burpies, and running-in-place). Exercises which were seriously regimented, with someone acting like a drill sergeant shouting out the cadence to the exercises.[28][29][30]


Members of La Eme learned the language of the Aztecs, which is Nahuatl. While some were into it because they were into the Aztec culture and history, all learned it because it was used in their encrypted communication with each other (written and verbal). New recruits were given lists of words to study. Every day from 12 pm to 2 pm, La Eme had what was known as "quiet time" in which its members studied Nahuatl. They also used images (e.g. pictures) and number codes in their communication. [31][32][33]

Rules of La Eme[]

The rules of conduct or membership (four of which if violated results in death) include;

  • Joining "La Eme" is by murdering an enemy.
  • The only way to leave the gang is via death.
  • Carnales have to be sponsored by another member, who is responsible for any detrimental actions you may take against the organization (e.g. treason).
  • The member acknowledges the Mexican Mafia to be his only priority.
  • No informing to the authorities or outsiders about the existence of "La Eme" or it's activities, the punishment is death.
  • Members are never to display any fear or weakness, the punishment is death.
  • No member is to have sexual relations with another member's wife or girlfriend.
  • All assignments given to a member are to be carried out, no matter the cost.
  • No member can be a homosexual, the punishment is death.
  • Members are required to reject Christianity.
  • Keeping to a strict code of hygiene, in which they must get up early, keep their clothing and shoes clean, and dress as soon as they get up.
  • No member is to steal from another member.
  • No member is to interfere in another member's business.
  • No member is allowed to raise a hand against another member without prior permission from the gang.
  • No politicking (lobbying for votes) against another member.


Like the Russian Vory, due to it's prison origins and the fact that it's members have mostly come from street gangs, tattooing is an important part of its culture. These tattoos are prison tattoos, made with bluish-black ink. Some had color tattoos but those were gained on the outside. Unlike with the Vory, you don't find "Carnales" with tattoos scattered across most if not the whole body. With the "Carnales" the tattoos are placed on the chest, abdomen, back, shoulders, arms, and sometimes the hands (e.g. knuckles) and neck.

These tattoos vary quite a bit and range from tattoos that identify you to those which tell others your crimes. Members can and often have tattoos which depict images of women, creatures (e.g. snake), Aztec imagery, Chicano culture, and so on. Tattoos of women are either portraits of their loved ones (face and head), or they are an idealized Aztec or Chicano female. The words are often done in either "Old English" or cursive, which is either in Spanish or English.

Tattoos that were specific to "La Eme", the Latino gangs from which it emerged, prison culture in general, or street gangs in general, included;

  • EME = Which is Spanish for "M" as in the "The Mafia".
  • Sur = It's short for "Sureños", meaning one is a member of the Sureño Nation of gangs that are affiliated with the Mexican Mafia. It is also an abbreviation of Southern United Raza. Sometimes the tattoo is spelled out, Sureño. Those who have the tattoo are known as Sureños or Southsiders. Many members have this tattoo because they were recruited from Sureño gangs.
  • 13 = The number 13 represents the letter "M", as in the Mexican Mafia to whom they have pledged their allegiance. The tattoos are also done as X3 and XIII. Since many of it's members were recruited from Sureño gangs, this type of tattoo is common.
  • Golden Eagle = Perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak representing the mythical story of the foundation of Tenochtitlan and the birth of the Aztec empire.
  • 3 dots = Represents "mi vida loca" or "my crazy life" which is near the eyes or on the hands (also signifies prison, hospital, and cemetery which is the result of leading that life).
  • Black Hand = The hand of death, usually with a "M" in the palm.
  • Teardrop = Under the eye which signifies that you have committed murder, the traditional meaning.
  • Cobweb = Means you have served lengthy prison time, placed at the elbow or on the neck.
  • Laugh Now, Cry Later Masks - Two opera masks, one which is laughing (or smiling) and the other one is crying (or frowning).

Tattoos that were specific to Chicano culture, based on Aztec imagery, or related to Catholicism which could be standalone or a part of a scene or portrait, included;

  • Mestiza = Female of mixed ancestry (European and Native American), often drawn with long hair and usually nude, sporting lingerie (e.g. bustier, thigh high stockings, etc), or wearing clothing articles like a tank top, a fedora, etc.
  • Lowrider = Often an image of a classic lowrider car from the 1930s-50s (known as a bomb), perhaps with a woman next to the vehicle or on it.
  • Veterano = Image of an adult male gang member, who can be wearing on his head a folded bandana or a fedora.
  • Crucifex = The Christian cross.
  • Virgin of Guadalupe = The Virgin Mary as she appeared to a Mexican indigenous peasant according to Catholic teaching.
  • Aztec Princess = Image of an Aztec maiden who may or may not be nude, sometimes carried by an Aztec warrior.
  • Mesoamerican pyramid = Step pyramid.
  • Aztec Warrior = Image of a noble-looking Aztec warrior, sometimes carrying an Aztec maiden.
  • Quetzalcoatl = Carved stone image of a plumed / feathered serpent, as found in the pyramids of ancient Mesoamerica.
  • Aztec calendar = Image of the disc.
  • Mesoamerican Death God = Skull wearing a Mesoamerican headdress.

Life in La Eme[]

Historically it's not an organization known for having millionaires during the Fifth World (unlike the American "La Cosa Nostra"), much less billionaires (unlike the Chinese Triads, Russian Vory, Mexican Cartels, Japanese Yakuza, or Colombian Cartels). For starters most of its members, spent most of their lives in high-security prison facilities. The most successful ones had wives or families outside who lived a comfortable middle-class life in a middle-class suburb. The least successful ones struggled on the outside and often let themselves get caught so they could return to the world they had become comfortable with, prison.

It's a syndicate in which it's members have a high school education and many of them have not even that, due to dropping out of school or having their studies interrupted because of juvenile hall. The economics in the underworld dominated by "La Eme" is not "trickle-down" but "trickle-up". One in which the high school dropout gangster covered in tattoos who has been institutionalized taxes the multi-millionaire drug trafficker or dealer, and because of it's power inside the prisons and on the streets, that wealthy criminal entrepreneur pays. Of course their power paled in comparison to the major Triads or Mexican drug cartels active in southern California. They didn't dare challenge those syndicates, but even they were strong enough to tax the local operations of the drug cartels who likely paid because it was cheaper and less burdensome to do so rather than deal with a war on the streets and in prison (especially considering that for the top tier syndicates the tax was not an onerous one, more like nominal tribute to the prison gang showing respect).

How La Eme Operates[]


Inside prison, "La Eme" runs a variety of rackets. The smuggling of illegal drugs into prison and drug sales to the inmates is it's main source of revenue. Other rackets which it runs are illegal gambling, loansharking, contraband smuggling, and homosexual prostitution. Their power is such that they can start prison riots and race wars in several prisons within days of each other and sometimes on the same day. Since most members of the Mexican Mafia are in solitary confinement, running the prison yard and blocks in a prison for them is the "mesa" (table) which is a commission of Sureños. The Mesa was a group of four or five selected "camaradas" (mafia associates), perhaps one from each of the cell blocks. It collectively decided on how to run the mainline yards for the Mexican Mafia in that specific prison. [34] [35]

Anyone who came into prison and La Eme was interested in recruiting into the organization, making him an associate of La Eme, and so on was vetted by the gang. As in their "paperwork" was checked, in which inmates, corrupt guards, and contacts on the outside got a hold of court documents that revealed what the prisoner was charged with, his criminal history, whatever downward departures they had, and so one. Which was used by La Eme to determine if that individual was a snitch, a child molester, or any type of person that prisoners considered undesirable. New arrivals were given a week or up to a month to provide them with the paperwork. If someone was suspected of talking to the police it was a death sentence, but could not be carried out without validation through paperwork.[36][37][38]

The Mexican Mafia's control of gangs or territories on the outside is usually through associates of "La Eme". When they organized the street gangs it was necessary to create a new job, since most of their members were locked up behind bars. It was called "llavero" (keyholder) who was given the "llaves" (keys) to a territory, and was responsible for controlling the gangs and/or rackets in that specific territory which may be a neighborhood (barrio), a collection of barrios, or a whole city (smaller ones). The "llavero" was given a high degree of autonomy in running the operation. It could be a family member, a girlfriend or wife, a gang associate. or even civilians who had proven themselves to be competent and trustworthy. Normally the ones that could be trusted most were family members or your lover.

In addition to executing any direct orders passed down from prison (e.g. have someone executed on the outside), "llaveros" also manage the day-to-day activities such as collecting taxes from gangs, independent criminals (e.g. drug dealers and pimps), neighborhood businesses (protection racket), and/or criminal enterprises (e.g. drug traffickers). Enforcement and tax collection is carried out by crews made up of members of a specific gang or they consist of members from various gangs whom answer directly to the "llavero" in their area. The "llaveros" also mediate between criminals and gangs in their respective territory and have the job of making sure money flows upward to the members in prison and their families on the outside.

The tax depends on the llavero, which can be a percentage of the drug sales or total revenue made by the gang's criminal activities and/or it can be a set amount which is assigned to the gang or its members every month. La Eme taxes most gangs 33 percent of their profits. Of the cash that is collected the shotcaller will give instructions as to how it should be divided up in which specific percentages go to the collecting crew, the "secretarias" for expenses, to the shotcaller, and his wife or girlfriend (if he is incarcerated).[39][40][41][42][43][44][45]

Vassal Gangs[]

It's network of vassal gangs, consists of gangs that are either Latinos-only or predominately Latino though historically some white and Asian gangs have pledged their allegiance to the Mexican Mafia (not a single black gang did so). "La Eme" outlawed drive-by shootings among its vassal gangs, which was done for various reasons. For starters, members had loved ones (family) who lived in those neighborhoods and were at risk of being maimed or killed because of indiscriminate shooting. As mentioned earlier, it was also against the killing of children, and wanted it stopped. It was also was bad for business, as the killing of an innocent bystander (especially a child) brought down the heat. Last but not least the gang truce served as a cover for the Mexican Mafia to establish its control over the gangs and divide up territories among its members. From that point forward any hits were to be done close and personal (e.g. shot to the head) or at minimum from a stopped vehicle.

Gangs were ordered to expel black members and break any alliances with black gangs, due to the racial conflict with blacks in prison. All gangs were to pay a tax to the Mexican Mafia, buy drugs from "La Eme", supply them with discounted drugs and weapons if they had their own connections, and tax both independent criminals (drug dealers and pimps) and independent criminal enterprises within their territory. Gang priorities would now be generating revenue for the Mexican Mafia, not fighting wars over honor and decades old disputes. It was up to the gang as to how it would generate revenue and many gangs became involved in the trafficking and/or dealing of drugs as it was the easiest and quickest way to make money. Though many of those gang rivalries continued it was usually at a lower intensity which resulted in fewer deaths.

Failure to follow those directives would result in being green lighted, in which the "La Eme" would put out a "green light" on the target, which can be either a person or a gang. While a "green light" is on you, it's open season. All gangs on the street are to take lethal action against you and likewise if you are locked up. If it was an individual, his or her gang was forbidden to give the target sanctuary. Give him sanctuary and the gang itself comes under a "green light". Unless the violation is unforgivable (e.g. betrayal), one can get the "green light" removed by altering course and making things right (e.g. paying reparations).

In Southern California, there were conservatively 40,000 Latino gang members and some estimates reached as high as 100,000 Latino gang members in the 1st decade of the 21st century right before the Awakening. Who were part of the "Sureño Nation". Hundreds of gangs which were under the control of the Mexican Mafia. In Los Angeles county there were an estimated 500 gangs, and that was a conservative number (which was not counting newly formed ones). The largest of those gangs being the 18th Street gang (aka, Barrio 18 or Dieciocho), with 20,000 members in the country with 10,000s more elsewhere (e.g. Mexico, El Salvador, etc).[46][47][48][49][50]

18th Street (aka, Dieciocho) in Los Angeles was a federation of two dozen cliques. Each of which operated independently and was led by a shotcaller (at least four of them members of the Mexican Mafia). Some of the cliques were heavily involved in the drug trade. Other cliques simply collected taxes from those who operated in their territory. It was considered the most violent gang in Los Angeles. Earning millions every year from drugs, false ID sales, extortion, auto theft, and firearms smuggling. Next in line was Mara Salvatruch (aka, MS-13) a mostly Central American gang with 8,000 members in the United States with 10,000s more in Mexico and Central America. They too had pledged their allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.[51][52][53][54]

How these gangs were regulated depended on the shotcaller. In the 1990s and 2000s, Arturo “Tablas” Castellanos passed down rules to the gang he controlled, the 3,000 strong Florencia 13 (aka, F-13). He directed every clique in the gang to have a president and vice president whom were to be chosen by majority vote. They were responsible for making sure that every member was informed regarding the rules, understood them, and respected said rules. The gang were to conduct weekly meetings regarding issues and concerns. It was told to check the "paperwork" on anyone who got out of jail, to make sure that they where who they said they were. The president was to keep the shotcaller updated on what was going on in the gang and its territory, personally or through a homegirl. No false accusations against other members of being a rapist, gay, snitches, etc without proof were permitted or they would get a beating or have to face the one they accused. Disputes between members were to be addressed in meetings and if no understanding were reached they were to fight it out (box) at an arranged time and place. If someone was convicted because of a member who had loose lips, the fate of the latter member was up to the incarcerated member.[55][56]

Likewise, how the Sureños were regulated when they were incarcerated depended on the shotcaller in charge of that correctional facility. In the Los Angeles County Jail in the 2000s, the Sureños had to follow over 30 rules. Which included mandatory workouts every day for a minimum of one hour, keeping the "tira" (tier) clean of trash (unless it was being swept that day), no fighting, educating new arrivals on their tira of the rules, mandatory assaults on gangs and individuals who were green lighted, new lists of who was green lighted passed every night, and respecting the correctional staff (officers, nurse, store clerk, etc).[57]

La Eme at War[]

The Mexican Mafia of the late 20th century had a tried and tested method of carrying out hits, one which had given them much success. When in the United States, the Mexican Mafia used 3-man hit squads. Behind bars it consisted of one armed with a shank who was the hitter, the backup with the "bone crusher" (which is a big heavy shank, one that can crack a bone), and the lookout. The backup would come into play if the target couldn't be taken down by the hitter. Likewise on the streets it was a 3-man team, but it worked a little differently. The hitter packed a handgun with or without a sound suppressor (e.g. a .38 revolver or a 9mm Glock 19 pistol). The backup carried a heavy gun, one with more power (e.g. a .357 Magnum revolver or the .45 M1911 pistol), whose job was to deliver the killing blow if the first one was unable to do it himself. In the background was the third man who was armed with either a shotgun or an assault rifle (e.g. an AK-47) whose job was to provide them with cover, if it all went sideways.[58]

Inside prison, on hits or when it was time for a race riot, they would if possible outfit themselves with a crude but effective knife-proof vest, one made of paper. Ideally it was not only paper, but included the book cover (e.g. prison library books). If not as many layers of paper as possible. They also created spears to throw thru the bars at a prisoner in another cell, home-made incendiary devices, crude chemical weapons (e.g. urine), and blunt-edged club-like weapons. When going to war inside prison, "La Eme" would mobilize all of the Latinos under its control or influence and wage battle (usually in the yard), and were usually aided by the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) and the white prisoners under its control or influence. The Mexican Mafia unlike the Aryan Brotherhood did not have a reputation for purposely targeting prison guards and murdering them just because they were doing their job which the AB was known for doing.

On the streets, members of "La Eme" were routinely found equipped with assault rifles and body armor.[59] They would direct specific gangs to wage war against a green lighted gang until it had submitted or against an enemy gang (usually Crips or Nortenos) to take over it's geographical turf or drug territory. Members of the Mexican Mafia and the gang members working in their drug trafficking operations, as "tax collectors", or as hit squads were found with such weapons as AK-47 assault rifles, AR-15 semi-auto rifles, SKS carbines, Mac-11 or Tec-9 machine pistols, shotguns, handguns, sound suppressors (aka, silencers), grenades, pipe bombs, and in one case enough C-4 plastique explosives to blow up a small building.[60][61][62][63][64] Some of their crews and gangs, or members also had bulletproof vests, two-way radios, and binoculars.[65]

Down south in Mexico it was a whole different world. Members of "La Eme" who operated down there, usually did so working for a drug cartel or were even a member of said cartel. When they went into battle it was either as a part of a cartel squad or platoon or they themselves were leading truckloads (usually SUVs) of gang members or cartel soldiers, sometimes even convoys. Men who were armed to the teeth with assault rifles and sometimes grenades, machine guns, and even anti-tank weapons (RPGs). Involved in taking hostages, kidnapping, murdering policemen, shootouts in daylight, paramilitary assaults, and massacres.[66][67][68]


The Mexican Mafia had direct or indirect alliances and partnerships with a wide variety of criminal organizations, in the Latino, white, and Asian underworlds in the United States and Mexico. Within the United States it had by the last decade of the Fifth World, established alliances with three Chicano prison gangs; the dominant prison gangs of Arizona (the New Mexican Mafia) and New Mexico (the New Mexico Syndicate), and one of the top two in Texas (the Mexikanemi). It also had an alliance with the most powerful white supremacist prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood which was also the only prison gang that was at the same level as the Mexican Mafia.[69] They had a partnership with the Tijuana Cartel of Mexico and a business alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel.[70][71][72] Through its subordinate gangs (the Sureños) it had an alliance with the Peckerwoods (white supremacist street gangs that dealt meth and were influenced by Latino gang culture) and various Asian gangs (called "South Side Chinos" by La Eme).[73][74][75] It also had an alliance with the Mongols biker gang which ruptured in the mid-2000s leading to a war but had been restored by the late 2000s.[76][77][78]


Cross-Border Smuggling[]

As far back as 1969, La Eme had been smuggling drugs into the United States when it established its first heroin pipeline to Los Angeles. [79] Since the 1990s, it had been working with drug cartels to facilitate the smuggling of wholesale quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana into the United States across the Mexican border via the California ports of entry. It worked mostly with the Tijuana Cartel in the 1990s and both the Sinaloa and Tijuana Cartel in the 2000s. The Mexican Mafia was smuggling drugs worth tens of millions of dollars into the United States every month, including 200 kilos of cocaine every week by the late 2000s.[80][81]

La Eme and several of its Sureño gangs (e.g. 18th Street and the Avenues of northeast LA) had worked closely with Mexican smugglers in the smuggling of illegal immigrants into the United States.[82][83][84] They also earned money through the smuggling of stolen vehicles into Mexico through the gangs it controlled, specifically Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).[85] Individual members of La Eme and some of its affiliated gangs were also involved in arms trafficking, smuggling firearms into Mexico.[[86]]

Drug Trafficking[]

The Mexican Mafia during the 1990s and 2000s prior to the Awakening, established regional and national drug trafficking networks in the former United States. They sent their members to other states to establish strongholds such as in Florida, Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut. Where they normally organized the Latino gangs that claimed "Sureño" and/or brought with them members from various street gangs in Southern California. Based in San Bernardino County in southern California was a nationwide methamphetamine trafficking organization.[87][88]

Gangs were used as proxies, as they were directed to establish drug trafficking enterprises. One such gang, the Vineland Boys of the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County) ran a methamphetamine operation that spread to Hawaii, New Jersey, Kentucky, and North Carolina.[89][90] Another gang, La Rana based in Torrance (Los Angeles County) ran a 9-state cocaine and methamphetamine operation that reached Massachusetts, Georgia, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.[91] One gang, the Alley Boys from Santa Ana (Orange County) ran a multi-state methamphetamine trafficking operation earning $1 million a month.[92][[93]] The three largest gangs in Los Angeles (18th Street, MS-13, and Florencia 13) all trafficked drugs to other parts of the country.[94]

Retail Drug Sales[]

Many of the gangs that were controlled by the Mexican Mafia either were involved in street-level drug sales or a clique within the gang sold drugs. An example of a drug sales operation run by a Mexican Mafia shotcaller was one that operated in Los Angeles at the end of the 20th century. Shotcaller Frank "Puppet" Martinez was receiving $40K in monthly "tax" payments in the 1990s, including the years he was incarcerated in Pelican Bay (northern California). It was coming from the Columbia Lil Cycos, a small clique within the 18th Street gang which operated in a small neighborhood west of downtown LA. For 8 years the Columbia Lil Cycos were making $250K a month, putting its drug dealers on shifts so that the gang was selling drugs 24 hours a day. It's rent collectors were raking in 8-10K a week from other drug dealers and up and coming young gangbangers were making $1k a week. They owned a used-car lot, several restaurants, and a juice bar through which they laundered $4.5 million a year.[95][96][97]

Using the gangs of southern California, the Mexican Mafia during the 1990s-2000s sent gang members to cities across the United States to take over local drug markets. It may be one gang or a coalition of gang members from various gangs. Supplied with drugs from southern California, they would offer local drug dealers the option of working for them or being murdered. In one case, gang members from various Los Angeles gangs (many of them bitter rivals) had relocated to Albuquerque in New Mexico. Working together and calling themselves "Sureno-13" they dealt drugs and brought in crack cocaine and PCP from Los Angeles (some of which were supplied by the Mexican Mafia). They quickly took over the crack trade in a high crime area known as the War Zone. In another case, a clique of the Tortilla Flats gang from Compton, moved into Oklahoma City and quickly took over the local drug trade. They arranged to have multi-pound quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine brought to the city from Los Angeles.[98][99][100]

Security for the street-level distribution of drugs varied by Sureño gang. Drug houses where the drugs were stashed and/or sold could be protected by surveillance cameras and in one case also a laser tripwire (e.g. Big Hazard of East LA and the Avenues gang of northeast Los Angeles).[101][102] Lookouts could be deployed on the streets and/or on rooftops to keep an eye out for patrol cars, undercover officers, rival gangs, etc. When they spotted such a threat, they warned the dealers via radio (walkie-talkie), flashlights (night), or even whistles (e.g. Blythe Street of San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, Mara Salvatrucha in LA, and 18th Street in LA). If whistles were used, they had specific whistles to warn about the type of threat and when it was safe to start dealing drugs again.[103][104][105]


La Eme controlled street-level prostitutes through its street gangs or had its gangs taxed the working girls. It controlled prostitutes in the Latino areas within San Gabriel Valley, northeast of downtown Los Angeles.[106] Over in notorious MacArthur Park, west of Downtown Los Angeles, it had the gangs (e.g. 18th Street and MS-13) tax the prostitutes working in the little mobile brothels (vans).[107][108][109] Within the "casitas" of the Latino immigrant communities in south Los Angeles were often prostitutes who charged up to $60 for sex, who would use a small room with a single mattress (often on the floor). [110][111]


The Mexican Mafia was involved in street-level gambling. There was a growing underworld in Los Angeles, border-style speakeasies in the poor Latino communities within south Los Angeles (e.g. Huntington Park). Known as "casitas" (little houses) they were illegal underground establishments that operated in hollowed-out houses and shuttered storefronts in the decayed parts of the city. Access was through hidden backdoors or camouflaged doorways. The clientele were legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Within customers were offered gambling (e.g. slot machines), after-hours alcohol, drugs, and stolen cigarettes. Some of them were run by independents and others were run by gangs (e.g. 18th Street and Florencia 13). Casitas that were not controlled by the gangs paid a "tax" of $500 to $1500 a week to the gangs. Flowing upwards to the Mexican Mafia were a share of the taxes and of the gang's revenue from their own casitas.[112] [113]

Protection Rackets[]

Via the gangs it controlled the Mexican Mafia taxed legitimate small businesses and unlicensed vendors. Many of its gangs extorted small businesses such as a towing company or a dry cleaner, and in exchange for the weekly payment the gang protected that business establishment from other gangs. On the other hand if they didn't pay, the gangs would frequently inflict damage on the business and/or violently assault the business owners, their friends, and/or family. Unlicensed illegal vendors were also taxed, from the pushcart fruit vendor to the sidewalk clothing vendor. They would even tax the flower vendor standing at the intersection. The 18th Street gang cliques near downtown Los Angeles at MacArthur Park, went so far as to organize and regulate the illegal sidewalk vendors. In which they spray painted lines on the pavement and allotted the vendors specific spaces.[114][115][116][117][118][119][120][121]

Misc Street Enterprises[]

Counterfeit Goods[]

Some of the Sureño gangs were involved in the street-level sales of pirated DVDs and counterfeit goods.[122] The most lucrative location being Santee Alley in the Fashion District of Downtown Los Angeles, where Latino gangs (e.g. 18th Street, the Crazy Riders, and Los Carnales) sold counterfeit designer clothes and luxury items (e.g.purses).[123][124]

Auto Theft[]

There were various Sureño gangs that ran auto theft rings, in which they either operated their own chop shops and changed the VINs or they supplied criminal outfits that either had chop shops or exported stolen vehicles to Mexico or Central America (e.g. 38th Street gang south of downtown LA and 18th Street gang).[125][126][127][128]

Stolen Goods[]

La Eme used its very close relationship with the Mexican drug trafficking organizations to facilitate in the fencing of stolen property. What it's Sureño affiliated gangs stole were purchased by the Mexican traffickers or traded for drugs, which were then taken back to Mexico and sold in its grey markets.[129]

Fake Documents[]

Several of its gangs were involved in the production and sales of fake documents. In the city of Los Angeles, the three largest and most powerful street gangs, which were all Sureños (18th Street, the Mara Salvatrucha, and Florencia 13) dominated the production of fake documents on the street. They ran "Mica Mills" which produced birth certificates, immigration documents, Social Security cards, and driver's license cards. Various gangs including the aforementioned three would tax the "Mica Mills" which were run by independent forgery rings.[130][131][132][133]


Individual members of La Eme and it's Sureño gangs were involed in street-level gunrunning. In which guns were traded among the gangs, and/or they sold firearms to gang members, independent criminals, or whatever civilian was looking for a gun. [134][135]


In the 1970s, they stole millions of dollars in grants to rehabilitation non-profit organizations in Los Angeles which they had infilrated.[136][137] Members of La Eme were also known to be involved in real estate fraud to launder their illict earnings.[138]


La Eme also performed contract murders on the outside, including for the Italian Mafia in the 1970s-80s and the Tijuana Cartel from the 1990s onward.[139][140] As part of their alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood, each did contract murders for each other.

Prison Rackets[]

As the Mexican Mafia had its origins in prison and it was its power base, the rackets behind the prison walls continued to be of paramount importance to the syndicate even once it was earning far more money on the streets from the drug trade. Whatever gang controlled the rackets inside, especially the drug trade, controlled the prison. La Eme smuggled into prison; drugs (especially heroin) and contraband items (e.g., cigarettes, weapons, cellphones, food). They earned money from drug sales, loansharking, gambling, contraband, and homosexual prostitution.[141][142]

Gambling consisted of poker games, sports betting, and gambling pools. The bookmaking operations were called "tickets" and had consisted of a bookie and his runners. Information on sports was provided by contacts on the outside via the telephone or the monitored electronic system (e.g. email). Though gambling was illegal, to keep the inmates calm and therefore reduce violence the authorities usually did not interfere. Operations that could generate $100s per poker table or $1000s per bookmaking operation. Football were the most popular when it came to sports betting.[143][144]

Homosexual prostitution existed in two forms for the Mexican Mafia. First youthful new arrivals who were unaffiliated, lacked connections, or refuse to affiliate themselves with a gang, were auctioned off to the homosexuals. Second where the male prostitutes who they owned due to a debt or because they bought them from another gang or inmate, who they "rented" out to others for a fee or sold to other gangs (or to someone looking for a "wife"). Those who ended in that position where inmates who were unable to financially pay off their debts and unwilling to commit illegal acts for the gang to pay off said debt where one group. Another where those who were gay or had been raped and therefore feminized in the eyes of the inmate population, and had become chattel.[145][146] [147]

Mexican Mafia in the Real 21st Century[]

Organized crime today in southern California is dominated by "La Eme", an organization with 300-400 members which is the only region-wide crime syndicate in the history of southern California and its reach extends across the United States, as far as Virginia in the east and the Hawaiian Islands in the west. Though most of its members are locked up and usually in the most secure holding block of a prison (with its top players locked up in super-maximum prisons), it controls many of the prisons in California, is one of the main prison gangs in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and has established alliances with less powerful but still dangerous Chicano prison gangs in a couple of other states which have their own operations on the streets (New Mexican Mafia of Arizona, Mexikanemi of Texas, and New Mexico Syndicate of New Mexico).

The Mexican Mafia controls its empire in Southern California and runs its nationwide criminal network from three bases or headquarters. Which are the Pelican Bay State Prison (the only supermax prison in California), ADX Florence in Colorado (the federal supermax), and in Los Angeles (the Men's Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility). A number of the Sureño gangs in Los Angeles have been controlled by shotcallers locked up at the super-max prison of Pelican Bay in northern California over 700 miles away or in the federal super-max prison of Florence in Colorado over 1,000 miles away. Men like Ruben "Night Owl" Castro who ran his branch of the 18th Street gang in Los Angeles from Florence or Raul "Huero Sherm" Leon who controlled various gangs in San Diego Country from Pelican Bay.[148][149][150] While some shotcallers control a single gang, others control multiple gangs. Some control small territories with high density populations, others control territories that are more spread out and less dense. An example of the latter is Danny Roman from Pelican Bay who was shotcaller for a dozen gangs in a 30 sq mile area in the south Los Angeles.[151]

They have working relations with several drug cartels (Sinaloa, Tijuana, and Michoacan) in which they facilitate the smuggling of wholesale quantities of drugs (e.g. 100 kilos of methamphetamine at a time), work with them in distributing those drugs to the gangs and across the United States, and taxing various drug trafficking organizations operating in southern California. They work for the cartels as hitmen and enforcers, and protect cartel members inside prison.[152][153] The Mexican Mafia continues to have an alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood, in which they do hits for each other and fight on each other's side in the prison yards.[154] Some of the Mexican Mafia members have family ties to the drug cartels of Mexico.[155] They also have a relationship with Asian crime figures in Hawaii, a business relationship with at least one Asian-American crime syndicate, the ethnic Chinese syndicate of the Wah Ching and likewise a business relationship with at least one of the outlaw biker gangs, the Mongols. Recently they've been working with Asian gangs to distribute drugs.[156][157][158][159][160][161]

La Eme controls to varying degrees most of the Latino gangs in Southern California who are under the "Sureño" banner (approximately over 100,000 gang members of whom most are in southern California). The two biggest Latino gangs west of the Mississippi River (and in both Mexico and Central America) which are 18th Street (aka, Dieciocho) and Mara Salvatrucha (aka, MS-13) are likewise under its influence, though only in the United States. As Latino gang members from southern California have migrated to other cities across the country, they sometimes establish new gangs (known as Sureños) which pledge their allegiance to "La Eme".[162][163][164][165][166][167] [168][169][170] Other gangs of note which are the largest and most powerful gangs in their city or county which are controlled by La Eme include the West Side Verdugos (1000+) and Ontario Varrio Sur (450) of San Bernardino County, East Side Riva (800+) and Corona Varrio Locos (300) in Riverside County, Logan Heights (500+) in San Diego County, Eastside (150) of Santa Barbara County, Colonia Chiques (1000) of Ventura County, and the Lopers (1000) of Orange County.[171][172][173][174][175][176]

Within Los Angeles County itself, they not only control the three largest and most powerful gangs in Los Angeles County (18th Street with 20,000 members, the Mara Salvatrucha with 8,000 members, and Florencia 13 with 3,000 members), but also other upper tier gangs such as San Fer 13 (1000) of San Fernando Valley, Longos (1200) of Long Beach, El Monte Flores (800) of San Gabriel Valley, Hawaiian Gardens (1000) of southeast LA, and the Avenues (800) of northeast LA.[177][178][179][180][181] They also control the oldest gangs in most of the cities in Southern California including White Fence (1910s) of East LA and 38th Street (1920s) of south LA in Los Angeles County, Old Town National City (1940s) of National City in San Diego County, and F-Troop (1940s) and Delhi (1940s) in the city of Santa Ana in Orange County.[182][183] [184][185] They've also have the allegiance of some non-Latino gangs, of white or Asian ethnicity such as the white ethnic gang Armenian Power (AP) or the Filipino gang Satanas (STS), both in Los Angeles County and both of them Sureños, going so far as to add the number "13" to their graffiti and tattoos.


  1. o33031982Vice p.26
  2. o33031982Vice p.31


  • o33031982Vice, 26, 31

Mexican Mafia (Research)[]

The Mexican Mafia in the Media[]