Sureños (Spanish: Southerners)‍, Sur 13 or Sureños X3 are groups of loosely affiliated gangs[18] that pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia while in U.S. state and federal correctional facilities. Many Sureño gangs have rivalries with one another and the only time this rivalry is set aside is when they enter the prison system.[4][11][19] Thus, fighting is common among different Sureño gangs even though they share the same common identity. Sureños have emerged as a national gang in the United States.[5]


The Sureños' main stronghold is in Southern California. They have heavy presence in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They have a small presence in the Midwest, specifically in Chicago. They have spread as far east as North Carolina.[20] Sureños have been documented in the U.S. military, found in both U.S. and overseas bases.[21] They also can be found in some parts of Mexico. Sureños also maintain relationships with various Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) based in Mexico.[4][5][11] They have been confirmed in 35 different states in the U.S.[3] They are with the Gulf Cartel.

The statewide north-south dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has roughly been accepted as the communities of Delano and Bakersfield, California.[22] Sureños have been found in some parts of Central California. Sureños strongholds in Upstate California is usually in Santa Rosa and Modesto due to a high Mexican-American populations in the 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.[4] As a result of these prison wars, all Hispanic California street gangs align themselves with the Sureño or Norteño movement with very few exceptions such as the Fresno Bulldogs and the Maravilla gangs of East Los Angeles, California.[2] When a Sureño is asked what being a Sureño means, members answer, "A Sureño is a foot soldier for the Mexican Mafia."[23]

On 2009, members of the Sureños were charged in the deaths of rival Norteño gang members Alvaro Garcia-Pena and Intiaz Ahmed. 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.[24]

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.[25]


While "sur" is the Spanish word for south, among Sureños SUR also stands for Southern United Raza.[26] Sureños use the number 13 which represents the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the letter M, in order to pay allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.[3][4][27] Common Sureño gang markings and tattoos include, but are not limited to: Sur, XIII, X3, 13, Sur13, uno tres, trece and 3-dots.[27] Although there are many tattoos used by Sureños, there is only one tattoo that proves or validates membership. The word Sureño or Sureña must be earned.[4] Most Sureños are of Mexican descent, but some Sureño gangs allow members from various other ethnic backgrounds to join their ranks making Sureños multiethnic.[4] 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[citation needed]

Criminal activity

Graffiti, also known as tagging, is used to disrespect a rival gang's territory

Sureño groups are involved in every aspect of criminal activity including homicides,[2][28] drug trafficking,[2][29] kidnapping, and assaults.[30] They are also heavily engaged in human trafficking.[4] There have been many high-profile criminal cases involving Sureños in a variety of states. Their primary focus is the distribution of various forms of narcotics and carrying out orders handed by the Mexican Mafia. Police departments have a difficult time dealing with this gang because of its decentralized hierarchy at the street level. Law enforcement attempts to limit the influence of the Mexican Mafia over the various 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 illegal drug trade; this resulted in the arrest of several of its members. The authorities confiscated thousands of dollars in drugs and money, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and local news channels. The group has historically quarreled with various rival gangs for placement and competition, which has resulted in many drive-by shootings and deaths. On August 24, 2004, a law enforcement preliminary injunction terminated the active members of the 38th Street gang, out of the streets, banning them from using firearms, alcohol, graffiti and other dangerous materials in public.[31]

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 Barkan, S. E., & Bryjak, G. J. (2010). Fundamentals of criminal justice, a sociological view. (2 ed.). SudBury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Sureños" (PDF). Sampson County Sheriff's Office. 2005. 
  5. ^ a b c Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). 2011 national gang threat assessment – emerging trends. Retrieved from website:
  6. ^ McCleskey, Claire O'Neill (November 29, 2012). "The allies sureños have are "Skinheads" or "Nazis"". InSight Crime. 
  7. ^ Mexican Mafia: Dangerous Gang
  8. ^ http://www.laweekly.com/news/the-mysterious-case-of-la-gangsters-in-syria-4487924
  9. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTogG38OPnI
  10. ^ https://news.vice.com/article/la-gang-homies-claim-to-be-fighting-in-syria
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ "Idyllic Half Moon Bay caught in war between Norteños and Sureños". mercurynews.com. Retrieved September 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b Hay, Jeremy (May 22, 2005). "A HARDER EDGE TO GANG VIOLENCE" (PDF). Press Democrat. Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  15. ^ Los Angeles Gangs and Hate Crimes, Police Law Enforcement Magazine February 29, 2008
  16. ^ Moxley, R. Scott. We Don't Care Gang Killer Begs Judges To Care About His Trial Complaint, OC Weekly, July 2013.
  17. ^ http://www.ocweekly.com/news/we-dont-care-gang-killer-begs-judges-to-care-about-his-trial-complaint-6471118
  18. ^ Morales, G. (2007). "Sureños". gangpreventionservices.org. 
  19. ^ Larence, E. R. (2010). Combating gangs: Federal agencies have implemented a Central American gang. Washington, DC: United States Accountability Office.
  20. ^ "Gangs of North Carolina" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ). Retrieved September 15, 2015. 
  21. ^ McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. "Gangs Increasing in Military, FBI Says". Military.com. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2009. 
  22. ^ Reiterman, Tim (February 24, 2008). "Small towns, big gang issues". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 23, 2008. 
  23. ^ Vinson, J.; Crame, J.; Von Seeburg,, K. (2008). "Sureños" (PDF). Rocky Mountain Information Network. 
  24. ^ Brown, Julie. "Sureño gang members stand trial for Norteño shooting". richmondconfidential.org. 
  25. ^ "51 Surenos were arrested in California Narcotics Sting. Perris MaraVilla 13 is jut one of the sureno Ganga In the South Side.]". policemag.com. 
  26. ^ "Sureño Tattoos and Symbols". policemag.com. Retrieved September 15, 2015. 
  27. ^ a b Eways, A. (February 13, 2012). "Sureño gang graffiti: Understanding the art of war". corrections.com. 
  28. ^ "Gang member's tattoo told story of 2004 murder Local & Regional News Bakersfield Now - News, Weather and Sports". bakersfieldnow.com. 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2011. 
  29. ^ Squires, J. (November 5, 2010). "Eight sureno gang members busted during operation groundhog in watsonville already convicted, four sent to state prison". santacruzsentinel.com. 
  30. ^ Stribling, L. (Writer) (2011). "Gang member charged after stabbing girlfriend (Television series episode). In ABC News. Wilmer Minnesota: ABC". 
  31. ^ "Delgadillo, Bratton, Perry Announce Crackdown on South L.A.'s 38th Street Gang" (PDF). Office of Civil Attorney, L.A. August 24, 2006. 

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