In order to understand the origin of the NorCal vs. SoCal gang conflict, one must understand the origin of Latino gangs in California. Sureños 13, the main Southern California gang, formed as an outlet of the Mexican Mafia (La "Eme" or The "M") in California. Due to Southern California"s close proximity to Mexico, Southern California gangs often had close ties to the Mexican Mafia while Northern California gangs did not. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, tensions ran high between those who were involved in La Eme and those who weren"t in prisons— southern Californians referred to Northern Californians as "lame farmers". A 1968 fight at San Quentin prison solidified the conflict: Southern Californians and Northern Californians were official enemies. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Delano, California was considered the dividing line between Norteños and Sureños territory. Today, Sureños can be found anywhere in California. Ironically, Norteños control the south end of the San Francisco Mission District while Sureños control the north.

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Above is Delano, California, considered the dividing line between Norteños and Sureños territory. Right is San Quentin prison, the site of the defining fight between Sureños and Norteños.

Norteños 14

Norteño Graffiti
Everything about Norteños 14 is created to directly oppose Sureños 13. They chose "Norteños" as their name (Northerners in English) to represent their pride in their Northern California heritage and commitment to protect it. Norteños are closely affiliated with Nuestra Familia, another Latino gang in Northern California. N is the 14th letter of the alphabet hence the 14 in their name. Norteños first appeared in the late 1960s in retaliation to Sureños referring to them as "lame farmers". Norteños was a way for Northern Californians to regain respect for themselves in prisons and on the street and to prevent themselves from being associated with the Mexican Mafia. They refer to Sureños as "scraps" while Sureños refer to them as "busters". Since it"s formation, Norteños 14 was considered to be a Chicano gang as the majority of Mexican Americans in Northern California identified themselves as Chicano at the time. Northern California is farther removed from Mexico, therefore the Mexican American population outnumbers the Mexican population. Spanish plays less of a role in Norteño culture as many Chicanos don"t speak Spanish, however "Calo", a slang dialect that mixes English, Spanish, and African American slang is very prominent. (above image: Norteños and Nuestra Familia graffiti)Today, Norteños is considered a Latino gang as Mexican Americans no longer make up the majority of its members. Norteños can be found in San Jose, San Francisco, Salinas, Sacramento, Stockton, etc. There is no significant Norteño population south of Delano/Bakersfield. The Norteños color is red like San Francisco 49ers uniforms. Many Norteños claim that the red also comes from the Huelga Bird, or the symbol on the United Farm Worker"s flag (the organization lead by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta). Some common Norteño tattoos include X14, Norte, N, etc. Norteños have a large presence in Chicano pop culture, as infamous Chicano rap group Darkroom Familia has admitted their ties to the Norteños and Nuestra Familia.

Sureños 13

Sureño Tag
Sureños 13 is one of the most violent gangs in Southern California with roughly 30,000 people involved in Sureño activities. Sureños is not exclusively Chicano or Latino, in fact many of its members form . Last May (May 2014) southern California law enforcement arrested upwards of 600 members suspected of being a part of SUR 13"s complex network, and that didn"t even create a dent in their network. The gang first emerged in 1968 as an American facet of the Mexican mafia— it didn"t take on the term "Sureño" until the 1970s when prison riots between Northern Californians and Southern Californians exploded. One theory for the "13" in their name is that M is the 13th letter in the alphabet, so the 13 could be a tribute to La Eme. Sureños originally began as a Mexican American gang, meaning that many of its members were second or third generation Mexican American. Many take SUR to stand for, "Southern", "United", "Raza", with the term "Raza" paying homage to the Chicano Movement. However, due to it"s close proximity to Mexico and involvement with La Eme, Spanish language is more important to Sureño culture, meaning it tends to attract less Chicanos and more Mexicanos (people who consider themselves Mexicans temporarily living in the US and don"t consider themselves affected by pressures to assimilate into American culture).Today, Sureños 13 is considered a Latino gang, as increased immigration from Central America has led to some fusion of Mexican American and Central American cultures.Sureño dress revolves around Los Angeles sports teams: members wear Dodgers gear, Clippers gear and even Lakers gear, though they are typically associated with wearing the colors blue and grey. Members get tattoos in order to show their allegiance to the gang. Common tattoos are SUR, X13, and XIII to name a few. Additionally, the process to earn membership is long and arduous. One must work to earn the title of "Sureño" or "Sureña" by carrying out tasks assigned to by higher ups in the gang.

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While there are no significant Norteño contingencies south of Delano, Sureños hold territory in San Francisco, Stockton, Salinas and San Jose. The "Upstate Sureños", the name they give to themselves, were brought North through an increase in immigration in the 1990s. Since Sureños are more closely tied to traditional Mexican culture, the gang tends to attract more immigrants than Chicanos. Many immigrants (though certainly not all), having no where else to turn, are swept up into street life and thus become Upstate Sureños. According to David Madrid of the Silicon Valley Debug, Norteño/Sureño bias is affecting kids even at the middle school level. Madrid often teaches high risk students about Chicano history in San Jose in order to instill pride in their ancestry. While most kids love his talks, kids who identify as Upstate Sureños are confused: on one hand, they want to be proud of their heritage, but on the other hand, being a Sureño has instilled in them hatred of anything Norteño. While many Sureños pass off the Chicano identity crisis as a Norteño thing, Upstate Sureños face their internal conflict from a very young age. Therefore, in order to assuage tensions between Norteños and Sureños, it"s important that young kids are given options so that they aren"t forced to turn to gang violence like others around them. It"s important to keep in mind that one doesn"t necessarily have to be in a gang in order to absorb gang philosophy and ideology.