Latin Gangs and Numbers

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MS 13, Nortenos 14, Mara 18, Surenos 13 … What’s behind Latin Numbers Gang?

Mara 18

Barrio 18th Street gang, called also Mara 18 (M-18) is one of the biggest and most ruthless gangs in El Salvador and Los Angeles.

La18 started near 18th Street and Union Avenue in Los Angeles. MS-18 was formed by Mexican immigrants in the 1960s.


18th Street Gang has been nicknamed The Children’s Army because of its predilection for recruiting kids in elementary school.

Number 18 (dieciocho in Spanish) is a common identifier for street gang members.


18 = X8 = XVIII = XV3

18th Streeters use also 99 and 666 as signs.

9 + 9 = 18

6+ 6 + 6 = 18




MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha gang was formed by refugees from the civil strife in El Salvador during the 1980s and grew to include thousands of members from all of Central America.


Today, Mara Salvatrucha 13 (70.000 members) is present in Los Angeles and other areas in the US, Canada and Central America. They operate in drugs, kidnapping, prostitution, illegal immigration, extortion, murder, human trafficking…


MS-13 is named after La Mara, a street gang in San Salvador and the Salvatrucha guerrillas who fought against the government during the 13-year-long Salavdor Civil War, which started in 1979.

13 = X3

“In recent years, federal law-enforcement authorities have targeted MS-13 and MS-18 alien gang members for deportation, an action that some argue has contributed to the development and proliferation of U.S.-styled gangs in Central America,” a 2008 U.S. congressional report notes.


Nortenos 14 vs Surenos 13


Norteños 14 or Norte XIV (Northerners) is a street gang founded in 1968 in Northern California. The Norteños use number 14 (XIV or X4) in graffiti and tattoos because N is the fourteenth letter in the alphabet. They use also four dots in tattoos in response to their rivals, the Sureños 13, who use 3 dots for their tattoos.

North vs South…


Sureños 13 (Southerners) or Sur 13 (“sur” means south in Spanish) is a street gang founded in Southern California in 1968. The Sureno Trece are connected to the Mexican Mafia prison gang.


Number 13 refers to the 13th letter in the alphabet, M, standing for “La Eme” (the Mexican Mafia), a prison gang that originated in California prisons in the ’60s.

Surenos 13 common tattos include: 13, uno tres (one, three), Sur (South), XIII, X3, Sur13, trece (thirteen) and 3 dots.

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Editor in Chief Mehdi Chourou