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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

Sureño Tattoos and Symbols

These gang members are loyal to one: the Mexican Mafia

March 03, 2010  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Surenos often imprint tattoos on themselves of "SUR" (Southern United Raza) and the number "13," a reference to the 13th letter of the alphabet, M, to show their allegiance to La Eme, the Mexican Mafia. Image courtesy of Richard Valdemar.

In Los Angeles California alone, more than 50,000 Hispanic gang members are members over 500 separate street gangs, and although they are usually rivals on the streets, they are united in their alliance and support of the Mexican Mafia prison gang.

The Southern California region that includes the counties of Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange, and San Diego also contribute to this Hispanic gang membership roll in the huge coalition called "SUR." These Southern California Hispanic gang members say that Sur (which is Spanish for south) is an acronym for Southern United Raza (raza means race).

Bakersfield, Calif., was once the "Mason-Dixon Line" dividing the Sureño south from the Hispanic gang members from Northern California, who call themselves Norteños (or Northerners). But since the 1980s, the Sureño gang members have multiplied like a plague of locusts and have spread north and east. Pockets of Sureño gangs, who were once sympathetic to the Norteño gangs, existed even in ELA-Maravilla, South Central, and San Diego. These Nuestra Familia sympathizers have almost all been wiped out.

The north-south line might now be drawn across California at San Jose, and Sureños can be found even in Northern California cities such as San Francisco and San Jose. Sureños can be found in every major city in the U.S. They can be found in Canada, Mexico, Europe, and South America. The big transnational super gangs such as Florence, 18th Street, and Mara Salvatrucha threaten the stability of some Central American nations.

Sureños can be classified into three major types:

Real Sureños are Southern California Hispanic gang members who have migrated from their breeding grounds in "Califas" and settled in a community near you. Individually, many of them are sophisticated hard-core gang thugs.

But many were only peripheral gangsters and nobody gang claimers. These "less than hard-core busters" can sometimes become big fish in a small pond by utilizing their "I'm from L.A." credentials.

Both the "hard-core" and "half-ass" gang member will boldly mark their new home with gang graffiti claiming their original Los Angeles Varrio such as "WF", "F-13", "XV3", and "MS-13." They might also write "So Cal," "213" or "310" (telephone prefix numbers), and sometimes the words "SUR 13," "South Side" or "Sureños."

The second type of Sureño is a gang member recruited and indoctrinated from your local community by the first type. Most of these "second-hand Sureños" have never been to Southern California.

Or they may also be a few ex-Southern California gang members from rival gangs who find themselves in a foreign environment, and therefore join together under the Sureño umbrella name to protect themselves. They may utilize local gang members to boost their numbers, calling themselves "Southsiders," "SS," "Sureno 13," "SX3" or some other reference to Southern California to tie them together.

The third kind of gang members calling themselves Sureños are the least connected to Southern California. They are Mexican Nationals, or natives of other Central American nations, who travel through the illegal immigration conduits controlled by the Sureño gangs. Street gangs such as Florence, 18th Street, and Mara Salvatrucha control major lines of human trafficking; they influence young men who utilize these routes and become indoctrinated in the Sureño gangster lifestyle.

When these men arrive in your community, they adopt the Sureño name and try to imitate the "American Hispanics" who helped bring them here. In reality, these Sureños have only a confused understanding of what it means to be a Sureño gangster. Untrained in American gang graffiti particulars, their "placasos" (plaques or badges in gang graffiti) are crude and less aesthetic than the U.S. gang placasos. Besides "Sur 13," these groups might mix in "Pandilla Sureño" (Sureño Gang), and "Sureños Mejicanos."

The thirteenth letter of the alphabet is "M," which in Sureño thinking stands for "EME," or the Mexican Mafia. Tattoos and graffiti depicting "13," "Xlll," "X3," "trece" (Spanish for 13) and "3ce," are all Sureño identifiers. Sureños and Norteños sometimes use the ancient Aztec language. The word "kanpol" is Nahuatl for Southerner, and "ixpol" is Northerner. The number 13 was drawn by depicting two parallel horizontal lines with three dots above them. Each line represents five and each dot is one.

As you can see, there are many types of people who call themselves "Sureños," with different types of graffiti you can use to identify them.

Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

J. Burns @ 3/12/2012 9:21 PM

Good overall article, could be more in-depth though....a lot of stuff left out.....

Tricia @ 8/13/2012 10:58 AM

Lookng for the meaning of a Sureno tatt. Two horizonal lines with three dots above. I was told this tatt had to be earned. Anyone have info.
I am a sergeant with the department of corrections.

Tricia @ 8/21/2012 11:52 PM

Looking for an answer to a popular tattoo at my facility. LMV It is on the head. These guys are Colorado Surenos that are in prison. Any help would be appreciated.

Jose @ 11/15/2012 1:26 AM

Tricia ,
Late response. But LMV stands for lopez maravilla over here in Los Angeles. They are not categorized as surenos at all. They are "green lighted" by the prison gang

alex @ 8/13/2013 3:43 PM

i love this site

nini#crips4l @ 1/3/2016 10:43 PM

a lot of people say bout the some hard core thug when in real life they aint my real dad is one of the hardcore i cant say much about him cuz he left me when i was 6 for drugs since then i have followed in his steps from dating gang members to becoming on its not a life i want my other brothers and my baby sister to live so i dont live at home i live with a friend of mine how is also my home girl thick or thin we all do come as one

Jose Parada @ 6/29/2016 7:45 PM

Tricia, hi im Jose about your info Yes a citizen or such resident especially from califas or one that decides to run sureno, every tat that may be such as the 2line and 3 dots has to be earned that will usually they call it jale meaning they would have to do a job such as beat up we would call it in a low mediums and highs well there is no more options then stabbing, the surenos are not to hurt/kill but to make others show them respect, especially in prison, I was just released from prison down in MCC San Diego I was out May 10, 2016 and I was running AZ that the surenos and us run together, AZ is another part of alliance of the Mexican Mafia known as La Eme im very close to south side residents from PHX AZ but unfortunately im breaking the alliance with the surenos if for any reason you would like any info don't hestitate to contact me through email as of im taken big risks thoroughly by identifying myself through line I would personnaly have to do a back grown check to assure yourGOV

Jose Parada @ 6/29/2016 7:48 PM

Tricia, I might be helpful with any information you need with the surenos gang and or anything to do with the Mexican Mafia as im a victim of there movements if you like you can email me any time at [email protected]

chavez @ 3/13/2017 6:36 PM

@joseparada. Mf yu aint runnin shit out here homie. I jus got off the yard. You where prolley a piece of shit on the yard ese your no good vato. Ill make sure yur on the lista homie. Better hope that aint yur real name. Matter a fact either that aint yur real name or yu where never on tha yard. Vatos like yu are getting killed everyday offering info like yur dumb ass. Edward almos wont go anywhere without security for putting out a lil info. And yu worried about doing a background check on someone else. Yu might as well be working for the goverment yu dumb mf. Yu a nobody homie. Stop watching gangland. This is my first time writing on some shit like this but it came up on my google so i had to check yur dumb ass. And the nawa 13 dont mean yur eme. That jus means yur squina. Az has there own stamp for the eme.

CYKO @ 3/26/2017 9:06 AM

FYI Most Maravilla Hoods are back in the SUR fold. Their big homies worked it out w eMe and the Green Light was lifted. I think theres a hold out or two, but the main MV gangs have fallen in line.

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