Mexican Mafia

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A member with Mafia tattoos on the abdomen

The Mexican Mafia is a highly organized and ruthless organized crime organization. Despite its name, the Mexican Mafia did not originate in Mexico and is entirely a U.S. criminal prison organization. Sureños, including MS-13 and Florencia 13, use the number 13 to show allegiance to the Mexican Mafia. (M is the 13th letter of the alphabet.) Law enforcement officials report that La eMe is the most powerful gang within the California prison system. Government officials state that there are currently 155–300 official members of the Mexican Mafia with around 990 associates who assist La eMe in carrying out its illegal activities in the hopes of becoming full members. Sureño street gangs and the Mexican Mafia are almost ethnically homogenous, that is, they consist almost entirely of Hispanic members. When Sureños enter correctional facilities, they are required to put aside their rivalries and obey the Mexican Mafia or suffer possible lethal consequences. The organization also uses members of 38th Street Gang and other Sureño gangs to carry out their orders. Most infamously, in the mid to late 2000's and early 2010's, they ordered these gangs to ethnically cleanse black neighborhoods of Los Angeles in order to expand their territory.


Law Enforcement believes that La eMe presently is not presided over by a single leader. Many Mexican Mafia members have the authority to order murders and oversee various other criminal activities. They have almost a thousand associates that help carry out those orders and have the theoretical control of all Sureno gang members. Members are expected to engage in tests of their loyalty to La eMe, which may include theft or murder. The penalty for refusing orders or failing to complete an assigned task is often death. According to the gang's constitution, members may also be punished or murdered if they commit any of four major infractions. These include becoming an informant, acts of homosexuality, acts of cowardice, and showing disrespect against fellow gang members. According to gang policy, a member of the Mexican Mafia may not be murdered without prior approval by a vote of three members, yet the murder of non-members requires no formal approval.

During the early 1960s at San Quentin Prison, Luis Flores and Rudy "Cheyenne" Cadena established a blood oath for members of the Mexican Mafia. Prior to the establishment of the oath, members of the Mexican Mafia were allowed to return to their street gangs after incarceration. The new oath stipulated that the only way for a member to leave the Mexican Mafia was to be killed. Flores and Cadena also established a set of gang commandments. These included policies such as: a new member must be sponsored by an existing member, unanimous approval from all existing members to join (no longer policy), prioritizing the gang over one's family, denial of the existence of the Mexican Mafia to law enforcement or non-members, respect of other members, forgiving street conflicts which existed before incarceration. Execution of a member of the gang for policy violation must be committed by the gang member who sponsored him. La eMe has a blood in blood out credo: Murder or drawing of blood is a prerequisite for membership and anyone trying to get out will be killed.


According to former member, Rene Enriquez, the rules are:

  1. "Homosexuality" - A member may not be homosexual.
  2. "Snitching" - A member may not be an informant, or rat.
  3. "Cowardly" - A member may not be a coward.
  4. "No fighting among members" - A member may not raise a hand against another member without sanction.
  5. "Disrespecting" - A member must not show disrespect for any member's family, including sex with another member's wife, or girlfriend.
  6. "Stealing" - A member must not steal from another member.
  7. "Interfering" - A member must not interfere with another member's business activities.

Allies and Rivals

The Mexican Mafia is the controlling organization for almost every Hispanic gang in Southern California. Members of almost all Hispanic gangs in Southern California are obligated under the threat of death to carry out any and all orders from made Mexican Mafia members. The Mexican Mafia also holds a loose alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood, mainly due to their common rivals within the prison system. The primary rivals of the Mexican Mafia are Nuestra Familia. The Mexican Mafia is also a rival of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which holds a loose alliance with La Nuestra Familia.

Mara Salvatrucha

In 1992 La eMe sent an edict stating that all Southern California street gangs would pay taxes on illegal activities and in return they would be offered protection when they entered the prison system. Because of their notorious reputation for murder, violence and control of the drug trade, many gangs complied and paid taxes. However, this edict particularly offended Mara Salvatrucha because they said the money they earned was theirs and not the Mexican Mafia's. This led to a bitter conflict between them and the Sureno street gangs under La eMe's control.

The Mexican Mafia put a green light on them, which meant it was open season to attack or kill them for their defiance. By 1993 the rivalry was finally put to rest, and Mara Salvatrucha became MS-13 The number 13 attached to their name is to show allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.


The organization's name tattoed on a member's abdomen

Mexican Mafia symbols include images of a black hand. The gang's primary symbol, which is often used in tattoos by members, is the national symbol of Mexico (eagle and a snake) atop a flaming circle over crossed knives. Street gangs that are aligned with the Mexican Mafia often use the number 13 as a gang identifier, as the letter "M" is the 13th letter of the modern Latin-derived alphabet. Some members like members of MS-13 are even distinguished by Mexican Mafia tattoos


The Mexican Mafia's power base is in the California Prison system, but they are active in many other southwestern states and the pacific region of the United States; including the Federal Prison system. La eMe is active in 13 states. Most members are male from Southern California Sureno gangs.La Eme is most active in the California and Texas prison systems. However, in Texas, the Mexican Mafia is called The Mexikanemi.