When most Americans think of Hispanic gangs, they think of East Los Angeles, the San Fernando or San Gabriel Valleys, Boyle Heights, or Downtown Los Angeles. They would be surprised to know that much of Los Angeles Hispanic gang history actually happened in South Central. The 38th Street Gang of the Sleepy Lagoon murder and Zoot Suit Riot fame (1943) was from an area patrolled by LAPD Newton Division. Although South Central L.A. has been known primarily for its African American gang activity, there were often small enclaves of Hispanics scattered among them.
Before the Second World War, many Hispanic immigrants and locals were hired by the railroad and the "Red Line" electric car company to lay track and work on the rail lines between Los Angeles and the port and harbor areas of San Pedro and Long Beach. Some workers settled in an area of South Central Los Angeles which they called "Colonia Watts" (the Watts Colony). Here the small markets and businesses catered to the Spanish speaking community. Many of the Hispanic street gangs which were spawned after the war take their names from the colony or the streets in this area.
I grew up in the Willowbrook area of Compton near the Willowbrook railroad tracks in the 1960s. At that time, the Florence 13 Gang (F13) was already a long established and large Hispanic Gang from the "Florence" area of South Central Los Angeles. It was a rival to the Hispanic Compton Varrio Tres (CV3), Tortilla Flats (TF), Hickory Street, Grape Street, Elm Street, Watts Jardin (Watts Garden), Lynwood Paragons, Ochentas (80's), and Colonia Watts local street gangs. Florence also sometimes "rumbled" with White Fence and other East and Central Los Angeles gangs, not to mention the continual skirmishes with the surrounding African-American street gangs.
The F13 gang got its name from the major street, Florence Avenue, which runs east and west, parallel and between Imperial Highway and Firestone Boulevard. The name Florence is pronounced Florencia in Spanish. Florence is also a woman's name, so the gang adopted a 50's "doo-woop" song, "Florence" by the Paragons, as its theme song. The song was often requested to be played by DJs like Huggie Boy or Wolfman Jack on the radio to let everybody know Florencia was in town and as an implicit challenge to rivals. The song was also played at Mexican weddings, cincinedas, baptisms, and dances, wherever "Oldies but Goodies" were popular. If Florence gang members were present in any numbers, it often proved a catalyst for fights.
As long as I can remember the Florence gang has used the "13" in their name, showing their strong allegiance to the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Many early members of the Mexican Mafia were recruited from the Florencia gang. All the gangs from this area were veterans of many battles with black gangs. Often outnumbered by rival blacks, they earned a reputation for fierceness and treachery. This made them prime recruits in the Mexican Mafia's war against black gang members in prison.
A few early Eme soldiers from F13 include: Gabby Baeza, Tablas Castellanos and his brother Babo, Magoo Delagarza, Winedog Encinas, Loco Gallegos, Eddie Boy Marquez, Enano Martinez, Smiley Mendoza, Gator Meza, Jaws Moreno, Puppet Paez, Little Man Perez, Tudy Picaso, Chago Ramirez, Smokey Rivera, Sniper Sanchez, Both Snuffy brothers (Ruben & Victor) Sanchez, and Magoo Velasquez, just to name a few.
The most infamous Florencia and Mexican Mafia gang member, Trinidad "Trinny" Inglesias, was convicted of the murder of Deputy Gary Saunders on May 22, 1971. He is also considered the prime suspect in the shooting of a Huntington Park Narcotics Officer shot in the head as he used a urinal in a public bathroom. Shot unexpectedly from behind, the victim survived but could not identify Inglesias. Inglesias moved out of Los Angeles after his prison term for the murder of Deputy Saunders and at last report was living in the State of Washington or Oregon.
The Florence gang has a long history of being involved in drug trafficking in Los Angeles, where they have held a leadership position even in this already drug saturated area. They have been known to deal directly with both major African American drug distributors and Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.
The gang today continues to grow. It is one of the three largest gangs in Los Angeles. Like the other two super Hispanic gangs - 18th street & Mara Salvatrucha - Florencia 13 is now primarily made up of undocumented (illegal) immigrants. They continue to finance themselves primarily through narcotics trafficking. False document and identification mills are also a large source of income for all three of the super gangs.
Currently the Florencia 13 continues to follow the Mexican Mafia's direction, "taxing" drug dealers, running document mills, fighting other gang members, and killing their African-American rivals. They currently are at war with "38th Street" and the L.A."East Coast Crips."
This writer believes that the Mexican Mafia has pushed Hispanic gangs in the South and Central areas of Los Angeles to attack blacks at every opportunity, to take over control of drug trafficking in these areas, and to secure and maintain the Mafia's dominance.