FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
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.

Tags: Surenos, Mexican Mafia, Tattoos, Graffiti

Comments (27)

Displaying 1 - 27 of 27

fabiola jimenez @ 2/8/2011 3:58 PM

i lik surenos story! keep it on n alway$ hav a $mile in ur fa$

Mariaa @ 3/1/2011 7:29 AM

; ohkay there are surenas as well which are the qirlsx sur 13 ! Thare are many typesx of thee sur trece ; but one of the biqqer onesx isx SOUTH SIDE LOKOTESX 13

Alexandra @ 2/16/2012 2:49 PM

Fabiola, You Like This Story But You Typin The "$" Like A Fake Ass Chapete?? I Think Your Jefita Dropped You At Birth.

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

navecapo @ 11/28/2012 2:13 AM

surenos are a New phenomenon in expansion in north Italy. It means portoricans that are the most high percentage of expatriates want to develop for their illicit activities

navecapo @ 11/28/2012 2:14 AM

surenos are a New phenomenon in expansion in north Italy. It means portoricans that are the most high percentage of expatriates want to develop for their illicit activities

navecapo @ 11/28/2012 2:30 AM

surenos are a New phenomenon in expansion in north Italy. It means portoricans that are the most high percentage of expatriates want to develop for their illicit activities . They import it in their community when they start to live well .

Loco @ 3/11/2013 11:02 AM

Maravilla is not green lighted no more and what your talking about was so long ago. They are southerners to. Jose you dont even know what the hell you are talking about. They were one of the first surenos is southern California.

Locote x3 @ 4/9/2013 9:47 PM

Sur13 for life ese x3

mr .oso @ 4/12/2013 8:53 PM

sur side califas dead end harpys gang sureno surenos stand up....

£$£ L¡l R@¥ @ 6/19/2013 1:55 AM

K-ma.,_ shu/shu¦ check-this-out! 1st of all, I would like 2 say Q-vo., 2 all the homies, torcido & in the streets.,HiJO-le-Su. City's like EAST LOS, MONTEBELLO, PICO, BELLGARDENS, NORWALK, EL MONTE, & ALHAMBRA. GRACIAS. & 4 all the FIRME camaradas putting it down, esté TCB... Tu Sabes. CHINO ELA. WINOR MTB. S-GUN R13 BOXER RT13 RAY VNRWK CISCO EMF & STOMPS LOMAS

alex @ 8/13/2013 3:43 PM

i love this site

Dirty @ 8/9/2014 11:27 AM

Big bad Xv3 got it on lock homie

Fatboie @ 8/12/2014 1:27 PM

SO MANY E-GANSTERS..plz stop banging on here ...what would ur mother say ?

noelle casias/lady skrapy @ 9/22/2014 2:58 AM

My big Amor y respecto to u all I see my homie girl fabiola on a comment what up big homie got Colorado on the map big shout outs from 719 970 & the 505 SUR up ssl x3

noelle casias/lady skrapy @ 9/22/2014 3:00 AM

SUR UP a ssl x3

rafael @ 10/14/2014 7:55 AM

They are goos videos 4 the homies....l am sureño de corasa to l die an always with my hood.estoy en mexico y aqui los barrios son muy diferentes hay muchos dedos,ratas enyte los mismos barrios thats not good at all aka monster wf

Joker @ 10/23/2014 11:59 AM

Simon sur 13 taking over saludos deste Chicago illinois sts florencia 13 de x vida stay firme

ese trace @ 11/6/2014 7:50 AM

sur 13 for life

ese trace @ 11/6/2014 7:51 AM

suereno 13 im in s.s 13 southside 13

Loko florenciano @ 12/5/2014 11:02 PM

South up 13 los angeles

MENACE @ 12/6/2014 12:40 PM


TWEETYxLMV @ 12/6/2014 12:44 PM


fuck you @ 12/15/2014 5:07 PM

Wat is T.C.M

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

SHOT Show 2015: Days 1 and 2 on the Floor
It doesn’t seem to be a “year of the gun” but more of a “year of the gun stuff,” as many...
SHOT Show 2015: Report from Industry Day at the Range
The biggest challenge for me was to narrow down those firearms and products that are...
Talon Grips for AR-15
After some trial and error, the company's founder began producing laser-cut grip panels...
FullPro SoundVision Eye Protection
One of my biggest frustrations is the sound intrusion that occurs because of my sunglasses...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Zip Code:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine