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Mexican GangsWe are the National CSI consulting and training specialist. We are a National and International consulting firm addressing timely issues. We specialize in Cultural Diversity, Violent Street Gangs, Domestic Terrorist, Youth Violence, Weapons on Campus, Bullying, Youth and community motivation.  We are often requested to address: community concerns. Our Clients are: Law Enforcement, Educators, Parole, Probation, Corrections, Community Organizations, Social Service Groups, Senior Citizens, Business Community, Concerned Youth, Faith-Based Organizations

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18th Street Gang

The 18th Street Gang originated in California. At that time the gang was exclusively Hispanic. In an effort to expand and gain turf, the gang began to accept all races. At first the gang was ridiculed by other Hispanic gangs, but that is no longer the case. The 18th Street Gang is quickly becoming a large threat in other western states. They can be found in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Nevada.

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)

I often say that gangs are like the ying and the yang. For every gang, there must be an enemy. The interesting thing is that often the make up (structure) of the gang is some what the same as their enemy. It didn't start out that way for The Mara Salvatrucha. This gang actually has it's roots in El Salvador. This gang originally accepted only Salvadorians, but has recently begun accepting some of everybody. This is especially true out side of the border states. The MS is an extremely vicious and well armed organization. It is said that they have links to the Salvadorian Military, allowing for arms at rock bottom prices. The MS's main rival? The 18th street gang.

I now have the pleasure of introducing to some and presenting to others Sergeant Louis Savelli. Retired Sergeant Savelli is well known and well respected by the National Concerned Officers Organization. For additional information about the East Coast Gang Investigators association or other gangs contact Lou at his E-mail address located at the bottom of this page.

East Coast Mexican Gangs
by Sgt. Louis Savelli, Vice President,
East Coast Gang Investigators' Association

Mexican gangs have been forming in the United States for over 100 years. On the East Coast, however, Mexican gangs are a recent phenomenon. In the past several years, East Coast cities have experienced an increase in the creation of gangs consisting of Mexican nationals. 

There are many experts who believe the North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA), enacted in 1993, which promised an increase in the national employment rate of Mexico, is partly to blame for the influx of illegal Mexican immigrants into the United States. The doubling of the unemployment rate during 1993 to 1995 and the drop in hourly wages to the lowest in Mexico since 1980, resulting in an economic crash referred to as the Peso Crisis during the 1990s.  This lack of economic opportunity in Mexico has greatly contributed to the illegal exodus from Mexico to the U.S. in recent years. 

Many of these Mexican gangs forming on the East Coast maintain strong ties to Mexico and Mexican traditions, as well as their relatives across the United States. 

Hispanic gangs forming on the East Coast during the mid and late 1990s have undergone a metamorphosis from unsophisticated loose knit social cliques to violent street gangs with strengthening alliances.

These gangs are largely Border Brothers gangs.  In Spanish, the Border Brothers are called “Hermanos de la Frontera.” Border Brothers are usually illegal immigrants from the same region in Mexico or those who have illegally entered the United States at the same time.  These Border Brothers have formed together for social functions and protection.  After a short time, they operate like any other gangs.     

This Border Brothers symbol represents crossing the border into the United States.

During the late 1990s, Mexican street gangs have found themselves at odds with many rival gangs of different ethnic backgrounds as well as “Border Brothers” gangs made up of Mexican nationals.  As a result, an alliance similar to the People/Folk alliance in the Midwest was formed within the Hispanic street gang culture in the Northeast.  Two ‘umbrella’ nations were created:  La Gran Raza (The Great Race or Nation) and La Gran Familia (The Great Family).  In the following chart, this alliance is illustrated.  Not all Hispanic street gangs are members of these two alliances, and these alliances may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

La Gran Raza La Gran Familia

The Mexican Boys

Crazy Homies Ninos Malos Southside
Chidos Picudos Cachandos Border Brothers Traviesos (NY)
Wild Chicanos Santaneros Cacos 18th Street
Cuatro in Quietos Pitufos Sureno Trece LA 13
La Mugre Los Cholos Brown Pride Vagabondos
Palomos Vente Seis Compadres La Tremendas
Los Primos Necios Escandolosos Barrio Kings
Santiago Muchacan Reyes Locos La Cien Cueristos
    La Raza Mexicana Night and Day
    La Hermandad De Pistoleros Latinos  


Non-Aligned Gangs
Vatos Locos La Raza
Sons of Mexico El Escuadron
Tres Puntos Traviesos (NJ)
13 Locos Los Toros
M-18 (Diez y Ocho) Vagos
Sombras Los Locos
Chacas Chicano Nation
Rincoenas Los Playeros

Sources state that each nation is also affiliated with a powerful Hispanic prison gang.  La Gran Raza is alleged to be affiliated with La Eme (The Mexican Mafia) and La Gran Familia is alleged to be affiliated to Nuestra Familia.


Mexican street gangs on the East Coast have taken on similar traits to other street gangs. Initially, these gangs were social in nature and seldom interacted with other groups unless they were involved in drinking and partying. Their structure was loose-knit. Today, these gangs are more like their American counterparts. Leadership roles are usually assumed by the most violent member of the gang. This leader appoints a second in command and issues orders to the soldiers. The leader is called "Mero Mero," which means Chief or Godfather. 

Mexican gang graffiti is more simplistic and to the point than other street gang graffiti.  In the picture above, Vagos is abbreviated by taking the first letter of the gang name, the middle letter and last letter to make up the gangs version of an acronym (VGS). This abbreviation technique is extremely common to Mexican gangs on the East Coast. Their graffiti seldom uses symbols and needs almost no interpretation.  As is plainly stated in the picture, Vagos are prominent around the area of West 116 Street.  Gangs like the Vagos (a.k.a. Los Vagos) and other Mexican gangs will frequently insert a reference to 100%, which means "100% gangster" or "I am in this gang life 100%!" 

Mexican gang graffiti may be less full of symbolism than that of other gangs, but their tattoos are highly symbolic in nature.  Common to these gangsters is a picture of a pair of praying hands.  These praying hands signify "praying to God for forgiveness."         

The Cholo symbol (seen below), which signifies the struggle for acceptance in America during the 1940’s, is frequently tattooed on the bodies of Mexican gang members. ‘Choloization’ is the transition an individual makes away from the surrounding culture into the American street gang culture.  During the  early 20th Century, Mexican-American youth donned ‘Zoot Suits’ as an expression of their individuality. The zoot-suiters were blamed for the Zoot Suit Riots in 1943, an altercation between sailors and Zoot Suiters, resulting in a ten-day riot in Los Angeles, California.  It is still unclear, today, which group was the real blame for the 1943 riots.

Tattoos within the Mexican gang culture often contain phrases of great significance to the gang member.  These include phrases like Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life) and Perdoname Mi Madre (Forgive Me, Mother) which are also symbolic of their awareness of their gangster life and how it is unaccepted by their family and others.  These words or phrases are often tattooed in Old English style letters.

Many Mexican gangsters on the East Coast will also tattoo the web of their hands with drawings symbolic of their specialty within the gang.  These hand tattoos are common among other Latino gangs present throughout North America. In some hardcore cases, these symbols will be burned into the hand.

Mexican gang turf during the middle 1990’s on the East Coast was mostly temporary or non-existent.  These gangs, which consisted of illegal aliens, were hesitant to remain in one neighborhood for any significant length of time. They were very nomadic and fled to neighborhoods miles away at the slightest hint of pressure from the authorities.   They were careful to write graffiti and tags inside of buildings rather than out.  During the late 1990s, Mexican gangs were claiming turf in neighborhoods in the northeast U.S. and hanging out in large groups without worry.  Graffiti, marking their turf, became bold and superfluous.  Large graffiti tags with the gang’s name and membership roll call were now commonplace.  Common turf for these gangs were neighborhoods with small apartments near restaurants and stores where they were employed. Today, these gang members will travel miles to work and stand on busy street corners in ‘shape-up’ groups to obtain a day's work from contractors seeking cheap labor. 

Most Mexican gangs prefer the colors of the Mexican flag as their gang’s representative colors.  The colors of the Mexican flag are green, white and red.  There are, however, several gangs which  have  adopted other colors.

Mexico's flag is green, red and white, colors which are favored by many Mexican gangs in the Northeast.

On the East Coast, many Mexican gangs have adopted beads with their representative colors.  They were influenced by other Mexican gangs like the Latin Kings, La Familia and Netas which were using beaded necklaces since the 1980s.  Beads, bandanas and color-coordinated clothing are now standard for Mexican gangs.  Many members are discreet about revealing them, however, and may conceal these colors under a hat, on the inside of a belt, inside a knapsack, or inside a pants pocket.  Mexican gang members are used to hiding their affiliation from the larger, more violent gangs of the Northeast like the Bloods and the Latin Kings. Because of the recent violence connected to Mexican gangs, they also hide their affiliation from the police.


These gangs, which started with victimization of their own people and other Hispanic gangs, have slowly developed in some cases into drug dealing gangs.  During a debriefing, a member of Chidos Picudos detailed the initiation rite of his gang (translated from Spanish):  “..they take you to a street corner, usually near a subway or bus stop.  They give you a gun and tell you to stick-up a person for their money.  After the stick-up, we meet at a park or schoolyard. …we’ll buy a couple of forties with the cash and drink until we get so messed up that we start fighting with anyone around…!”

Mexican street gangs, until recently, have been careful to claim turf in a neighborhood or at a local hangout.  Their immigration status, often as illegal aliens, made these gang members too cautious to settle into one area for long.  In the past few years, with their continued delving into the drug trade, these gang members have been visibly claiming turf and regularly marking their territory.   Turf is not just a barrio anymore, it is a place of business for these gangsters to sell drugs, extort money from local businesses, and commit robberies on innocent bystanders.  These gangs now mark their turf through straightforward graffiti, which provides evidence of their bold new style of gang banging.

Making money is another use for the gang’s turf.  Street corner drug sales are becoming more popular with the Mexican gangs.  As drug use increased, the high demand brought the gangs into the new millennium where green (representing money) became the true gang color.  Gangs claiming turf in highly traveled areas of some cities are gaining quite a clientele of drug customers and are raking in the profits.  These customers are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.  

Most of the violence in the Northeast involving Mexican gangs is directed toward other Mexican gangs and their own countrymen.  Incidents of Mexican gang violence have frequently occurred as a result of a disrespectful act (dis) by a rival gang member precipitated from a "shout out" at a nightclub, party or celebration.  When rival gangs are present at such functions, not much impetus is required to start an altercation. Other acts of violence have occurred when there is no other rival gang in sight but members view an opportunity to show their machismo. These acts often occur during baptism celebrations, weddings, sweet sixteen parties and other family gatherings crashed by Mexican gangsters who are friends with the DJ or one of the attendees. Mexican gang members may crash the party and take any opportunity as a chance to show their worth and gain respect in the eyes of the vatos (homies). 

The favorite holiday for celebration among Mexican immigrants in the United States is Cinco De Mayo, the Fifth of May, which is the observance of the Battle of Puebla.  The Battle of Puebla, which was fought on May 5, 1862, was a battle of freedom against the French Army’s attempt to take over the town.  A Mexican army, consisting of Mexican soldiers and local citizens armed with farm tools, totaling 2,000 strong, defeated an attack by 6,000 French Soldiers. Other important dates in the Mexican culture are Mexican Independence Day, September 16, and Revolution Day, November 20.  Observance of these holidays by Mexican American citizens have been marred frequently on the East Coast by conflicts between rival Hispanic gangs.   

Other forms of disrespect leading to violence among Mexican gangs are seen in graffiti cross-outs, written derogatory statements or aggressive paintings, drawings and murals.  One such derogatory drawing (show below) was seized from a member of the Chicano Nation (CN)  who shows himself tearing off the head of the leader of their rival gang, La Escuadron (SDN). Also depicted is the crossing out of Escuadron graffiti by Chicano Nation on the side of a building.  The statement, “Carnalitos hasta la muerta!” means brothers until death.


Maintaining close tabs on Mexican gangs is important.  As they are rapidly increasing in numbers, they are also stepping up their acts of violence.  Many times, innocent people are victims of their violent behavior, especially those who are celebrating a family function when the gangsters decide to crash it.  There are several murders still under investigation in New York that have not been solved with an arrest of a perpetrator. 

These gangs are spreading to all types of neighborhoods, cities and towns.  Rural areas with farms to work, major cities with restaurants to man and suburban areas with construction jobs to complete are areas which are likely to see influxes of immigrants from Mexico.  The vast majority of these immigrants are hard-working people who are simply looking for a better life.  A very small percentage, however, may bring their gang affiliations with them.  

In terms of officer safety, Mexican gang members can be very dangerous.  This can be true for three reasons.  First, these members consider themselves Cholos (gangsters) and may be involved in criminal activity.  Second, these gang members view law enforcement as their enemy due to negative perceptions about police officers in Mexico.  As a result of increased drug activity in Mexico, the DEA is now estimating that over 90% of Mexican police officers have been corrupted by Mexican illegal drug cartels/gangs.  Thus, Mexican immigrants may have little trust in the police, and may have been victimized by police officers in their home country.  Third, they may be particularly worried about contact with officers due to illegal immigrant status and their fear of being deported.  Be careful!

Mexican Gang Slang

Mexican gangs have their own form of spoken and written language that is evident in their graffiti and conversation.  Some of words, phrases, terms, gang name translations or numbers to be aware of are listed below:

13 = Depicts the letter M; refers to southern California
14 =
depicts the letter N; refers to northern California
Barrio = (Varrio) Neighborhood
Cacos = Local Thieves
Carcel = Jail
Carnal(es) = Brother(s)
Chaca = Indian Warrior
Chicano/a =
Mexican American
Chola = Female gangster
Cholo =
Cuetes =
Gun, explosive, firecracker
Salto; En salto =
Jump in (initiation)
Ese =
“Hey” or "What’s up?”
Ese’s =
Guerrero =
Hasta La Muerte! = Until death!


Sergeant Lou Savelli is the co-founder and Vice President of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association, an 18 year veteran of NYPD, a former member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department (FL) and Hollywood Police Department (FL)  and a published author. 

Copyright © 2000 Louis Savelli.  All rights reserved.

Recent Central Valley drug busts illustrate Mexico's drug-smuggling threat, federal law enforcement officials testified Thursday. From a met amphetamine lab busted two weeks ago outside Fresno, to the seizure in January of 6 kilograms of Mexican black tar heroin outside Sacramento, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Thomas Constantine told a House panel that Mexican gangs account for an increasing share of the illegal drugs used in the United States. "They make the traditional organized crime, the Mafia, look like schoolchildren," Constantine said. "They have become more powerful each and every year, and each has been able to avoid justice."

Lawmakers don't dispute Constantine's testimony. But what they haven't yet figured out is what to do about the Mexican connection, in which a valued trading partner and ally is also demonstrably riddled with corruption. The dilemma is causing lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, to reconsider how Congress handles its annual review of Mexico's anti-drug efforts. Recently, President Clinton formally certified that Mexico was "fully cooperating" with U.S. drug-fighting policies.

The certification decision, required under a 1986 law, means Mexico remains eligible.

In South central L.A. The biggest gang is 18st.It is considered to be the most violent and aggressive gangs in the community. It is estimated that there are as much as 25,000 members most of them Hispanics and Chicanos. It is also considered that 18st street is about 20 years old and as the years have gone by 18st has gotten more aggressive. Fractions of the 18st gang are spread through the United States. Washington DC, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, San Fernando Valley, Michigan, and other states to include Los Angeles including Downtown Los Angeles. Eighteenth street has even spread all the through Mexico and Central America. 


Eighteen's NUMBER one enemy is:

F13 which mean Florence13 a.k.a. Chorrencia or Fagetas by Eighteen.

Other enemy's include:

The RZX3 which means Raza 13 a.k.a RATAS,

SXL13 which means south los a.k.a. waffles. ATCX3 which means alley tiny criminals a.k.a. faketc,

42LC which means 42 little criminal a.k.a 42little chickens, and

ESX3 which means east side 13 street. and the fucken stv which means street villains a.k.a street virgins

 the PBS which is playbos a.k.a peanut butters. And that's about all of the enemy's I can think about and some putos that say that they are enemy's against eighteen they cant been competing with us couse they some little bitches. Fucken bitches they think they can be our rival but they aren't even big enough fuck fajitas fuck faketc fuck ratas fuck southxlos and any other little bitches that don't get along with us. They just fucken mad because everywhere all of L.A. is our Barrio, Varrio WS EIGHTEEN BARRIO TINY RASCALSX3. 

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