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Mexico Mafia

What do you know about the Mexican mafia?

Perhaps the most notorious Mexican gang is the Mexico Mafia, a highly-organized, ruthless crime organization that also goes by the name La Eme. This criminal entity got its start in a California state prison, Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI), in Tracy, California in the 1957. The founder of the Mexican Mafia was Luis Flores, a street thug and member of another Mexican gang called the Hawaiian Gardens. In the late 1950s, DVI was a facility for the most violent juvenile offenders, and at the time, its population was primarily white. Luis and 12 other gang members, the majority from East Los Angeles, formed the Mexico Mafia as a way to protect themselves from the white prison population and from the white prison guards, although the eventual goal was to control the prison and its flourishing black market activities.

Flores made a point of recruiting only the most violent members of the criminal elite, and under his leadership, the Mexico Mafia became a kind of super gang under which other gangs could unite. The Mexico Mafia excelled in a number of illegal activities, but extortion, drug trafficking and murder were its specialties. It even entered into formal agreements with other gangs, including the white supremacist group the Aryan Nation, for contract killings against members of a notorious black gang known as the Black Guerilla Family.

Unlike other Mexican barrio gangs, the Mexico Mafia adopted many of the practices of the Sicilian Mafia, including its penchant for secrecy and hierarchy. The Mexico Mafia even usurped the black hand symbol used by the Sicilians. Prospective members had to be sponsored by an existing gang member and had to have killed someone as a prerequisite for membership. A blood oath was established (the only way out of the gang was through death), and Flores even set forth a list of gang commandments. These were never written down so as to deny their existence but included swearing allegiance to the gang instead of to a member’s family and denying the gang’s existence to outsiders. The commandments also stated that any member who violated gang policy had to be murdered by his sponsor.

The Mexico Mafia employed a para-military structure, with members assigned ranks, and it enacted a constitution that outlined four transgressions, cowardice, homosexuality, disrespect toward another member and informing to the police, that were punishable by death. By the early 1960s, the Mexican Mafia was one of the most feared gangs in California and controlled the majority of the drug traffic in the California prison system.

At about this time, the Mexican gang’s reach expanded even further. Alarmed by the increase in violence at DVI, California Department of Corrections sent several Mexico Mafia members to other prisons, including notorious San Quentin. Undeterred by their new surroundings and seeking to establish their influence, the Mexican Mafia members promptly carried out hits on other inmates and began recruiting new members in more prisons.

By the mid-1960s, other gangs began forming in opposition to the Mexican Mafia, but the gang maintained its stranglehold on the California prison drug trade, engaging in murder whenever it furthered the gang’s goals. In 1971, the Mexico Mafia carried out Los Angeles’ first prison gang street execution. The killer was Joe “Pegleg” Morgan, a one-legged white rival gang member, who despite being Caucasian, who went on to become the Mexican Mafia’s “Godfather,” in time greatly expanding the gang’s California to Mexico drug distribution system. During this time, the Mexico Mafia adopted the tactic of infiltrating community organizations, particularly ones involved in helping drug users and alcoholics, and looting them for cash and cars. Anyone who threatened to expose the Mexican gang’s activities was killed.

In 1992, the Mexico Mafia organized a “gang summit” and outlawed drive-by shootings of enemy Mexican gang members (too many misses) and instead ordered that killings take place face to face, outside of vehicles. Drive-by shootings decreased, but gang slayings increased. Police seemed to approve of the arrangement since fewer innocent spectators were being murdered.

Since 1995, members of the Mexican Mafia have been prosecuted and convicted under Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes, but the gang is still active, and members, both inside prison and outside prison, remain intensely loyal and as violent as ever. Although authorities do not believe that the Mexican Mafia is presently controlled by one person, is estimated that there are currently 30,000 Mexico Mafia members, 150 of whom have the authority to order assassinations, in California, Texas and Arizona. Even today, top members of the Mexico Mafia who are locked in solitary cells for 23 hours a day are able to send messages to other gang members by tapping out code on prison water pipes and through smuggled communications.

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