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Founded </includeonly>
In Deuel Vocational Institution, California
Founded&nbsp;by Luis "Huero Buff" Flores
Years active 1957–present
Territory </includeonly>
Ethnicity Mexican-American/Chicano
Membership </includeonly>
Criminal activities Murder, Conspiracy, Drug trafficking, Racketeering, Witness intimidation, Extortion and Gambling
Allies </includeonly>
Rivals </includeonly>

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The Mexican Mafia, also known as "La eMe" (Spanish for the letter "M") is a Mexican-American criminal organization, and one of the oldest prison gangs in the United States.[1][2]


The Mexican Mafia was formed in the late 1950s by Chicano street gang members incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison located in Tracy, California.[1]

The foundation of the gang began with thirteen Mexican-Americans from East Los Angeles, several of whom where members of the Maravilla gang. These thirteen prisoners that laid the groundwork for the gang referred to themselves as Mexikanemi, which is translated from Nahuatl as "He Who walks with God in his heart."[1] The initial founding member of the gang was Luis "Huero Buff" Flores, who was previously a member of the Hawaiian Gardens gang.[3]

While the Mexican Mafia was founded in part to show reverence to Aztec and Maya heritage, its primary focus was to protect members against other prison inmates as well as corrections officers.[1] Deuel Vocational Institution was treated as an educational facility by convicts, where they would develop their skills in fighting, drug dealing, and creating weapons.[1]

Luis Flores initially recruited violent members to the gang, in an attempt to create a highly-feared organization which could control the black market activities of the Deuel prison facilities.[3] As a response to the increase in violence, the California Department of Corrections transferred some members of the Mexican Mafia to other prison facilities, including San Quentin Prison. This action inadvertently helped the Mexican Mafia in recruiting new members in both the prison and juvenile correctional facilities in California.[3]

In the late 1960s, Mexican-American (Chicano) inmates of the California state prison began to form a rival group to the Mexican Mafia, known as Nuestra Familia.[4] Membership was often determined according to the locations of their hometowns (the north-south dividing line generally accepted as Delano, California).

There was a perceived level of abuse by members of the Mexican Mafia towards the imprisoned Latinos from rural farming areas of Northern California.[5] The spark that led to the ongoing war between Nuestra Familia and members of the Mexican Mafia involved a situation in which a member of La Eme allegedly stole a pair of shoes from a Northerner. This event put into motion the longest-running gang war in the state of California.[5]

Criminal activitiesEdit

The Mexican Mafia is an organization involved in extortion, drug trafficking, and murder, with these activities occurring both in and outside of the prison system.[1]

According to the FBI, the Mexican Mafia had arranged for contract killings to be carried out by the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang. Both the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood are mutual enemies of the African-American gang Black Guerilla Family.[6]

The first prison gang street execution in Los Angeles was committed by the Mexican Mafia in 1971.[3] Responsible for the murder was a Caucasian Maravilla gang member named Joe "Pegleg" Morgan. Morgan was well respected within the ranks of the Mexican Mafia and became a high ranking member. Morgan's connections with cocaine and heroin suppliers in Mexico helped pave the foundation for the Mexican Mafia's narcotics distribution throughout California.[3]

During the 1970s while still under the control of Rudy Cadena, the Mexican Mafia often took control over various community groups. The gang was able to filter money from alcohol and drug prevention programs, and use it to finance their criminal activities.[3]

In 1995, United States federal authorities indicted 22 members and associates of the Mexican Mafia, charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act with crimes which included extortion, murder and kidnapping.[7] One of the arrested members, Benjamin "Topo" Peters, was allegedly the Mexican Mafia's highest ranking member who was engaged in a power struggle with fellow member Ruben "Tupi" Hernandez.[7] Another indicted member was accused of having plotted the death of an anti-gang activist who served as a consultant for the film "American Me." The indictments marked a two year investigation by federal, local and state law enforcement officials.[7]

In 2006, a 36-count federal indictment was brought against members of the Mexican Mafia. The arrests were made for alleged acts of violence, drug dealing, and taxation of smaller Latino street gangs for protection.[8]

According to the federal indictment, Mexican Mafia members exert their influence in both federal and state prison systems through either violence, or the threat of violence.[8] Members and associates of the gang remain fiercely loyal to the criminal organization both in and outside of prison, and particularly in Southern California cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego. The gang asserts its influence over other gangs throughout Southern California by threatening violence to their members should they ever become incarcerated. Gangs and drug dealers who refuse to pay a protection "tax" to the Mexican Mafia are often murdered or threatened with murder.[8]

High-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia that are locked in private cells for 23 hours of each day are still able to communicate with their associates, through methods which range from tapping in code on prison plumbing pipes to smuggled letters.[8]


While the Mexican Mafia is a highly-organized criminal entity, it is believed that the gang presently isn't presided over by a single leader.[8] Prison membership of the gang is believed to consist of at least 150 members with authority to order murders, and at least 1000 associates who can carry out those orders.[8] It is estimated that the Mexican Mafia has over 30,000 members throughout the United States.[2]

Modeled after the Sicilian Mafia in the United States,[3] the Mexican Mafia operates on a paramilitary structure, including generals, captains, lieutenants and sergeants. Those ranking below the sergeants are considered soldiers, sometimes referred to as "carnales."[2]

Members of the Mexican Mafia are expected to engage in tests of their loyalty to the gang, which may include theft or murder. The penalty for refusing orders or failing to complete an assigned task is often murder.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2]

During the early 1960s at San Quentin Prison, Luis Flores and Rudy "Cheyenne" Cadena established a blood oath for members of the Mexican Mafia.[3] 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.[3] Flores and Cadena also established a set of gang commandments.[3] 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, disrespect 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.[3]

While mostly found in California, the Mexican Mafia has a membership which extends to other states including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.[1]

Allies and rivalsEdit

The primary rivals of the Mexican Mafia are Nuestra Familia.[9] The Mexican Mafia is also a rival of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which holds a loose alliance with Nuestra Familia.[9]


Mexican Mafia symbols include images of a black hand.[8] 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.[2]

Members of the Mexican Mafia often use the number 13 as gang identification, as the letter "M" is the 13th letter of the English alphabet.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

The Mexican Mafia received mainstream notoriety after being featured in the 1992 movie American Me. The film was coproduced, directed and starred in by actor Edward James Olmos, who allegedly received death threats by members of the Mexican Mafia for what they considered an unflattering depiction of the gang.[10] Two consultants for the film were murdered shortly after the film's release. The Mexican Mafia was allegedly displeased with the portrayal of the murder of Rodolfo Cadena (who was the basis for Olmos' character Santana) as being committed by his fellow gang members.[10] Despite being a community activist, Olmos subsequently applied for a concealed handgun permit, for which he was approved.

Joe "Pegleg" Morgan, while serving a life sentence for murder at Pelican Bay State Prison, filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Olmos, Universal Studios and other producers of the film. Morgan claimed that one of the principal characters in the film was based on him without obtaining his permission.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Modern Prison Gangs. Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Mexican Mafia: Prison Gang Profile. Inside Prison. Retrieved on 2006-05-01.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 History of the Mexican Mafia Prison Gang. Police Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
  4. Federal indictments crack vast prison crime ring. The Press Democrat. Retrieved on 2001-02-21.
  5. 5.0 5.1 AN END TO THE CYCLE. Monterey County Herald. Retrieved on 2003-11-23.
  6. pg 43, 50 Title: FOIA Subject: ARYAN BROTHERHOOD Source: The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, Author: United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Mafia Handed 22 Indictments in LA. The Tech. Retrieved on 1995-5-2.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 36 indicted in Mexican Mafia crackdown. Union Tribune. Retrieved on 2006-06-17.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gang and Security Threat Group Awareness. Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 AN 'AMERICAN' TALE. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 1993-7-23.

External linksEdit

de:Mexican Mafia es:Mexican Mafia it:Mafia messicana

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