Norteños Gang Signs : Hand Signs, Tattoos & Clothing With Their Meanings

The Norteños (Norte X4) are various Hispanic/Latin street gangs in Northern California that are loosely allied under the Nuestra Familia gang. They are primarily composed of Mexican Americans from Northern California, and they are known as rivals with the Sureños, a gang that is primarily composed of Mexican Americans from Southern California.

Norteños use a variety of symbols, signs, and signals to identify themselves and communicate with each other. These symbols and signs can be used in a variety of contexts, including in prison, in the streets, and even online.

In this article, we will discuss the Norteños gang signs and their meanings. We also provide a brief overview of the history and culture of Norteños.

What is the Norteños Gang?

The Norteños are a Hispanic street gang that is primarily active in Northern California. They are rivals with the Sureños, another Hispanic street gang that is primarily active in Southern California. The Norteños are known for their use of violence and intimidation to control their turf and claim their dominance over rival gangs.

Set of norte gang members flexing gang signs

The Norteños were founded in the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were originally formed by Mexican American inmates in California state prisons. The Norteños quickly spread to the streets of Northern California, where they began to engage in a bloody rivalry with the Sureños. The split between the Norteños and the Sureños (southerners) was due to a number of factors. At that time there was a rivalry between the Mexican Mafia (La Eme), which was dominated by southern California inmates, and the Nuestra Familia (NF), which was founded by northern California inmates. Main reason for that split is there is a belief among northern California inmates that they were not being treated fairly by La EME in the prison system. Therefore Northerners created a new gang called Nuestra Familia in order to protect themselves from violence by southern California inmates.  

Get more information about Sureños gang signs.

Later, Norteños have expanded their operations into a wide range in California, where they are involved in drug trafficking, extortion, and other criminal activities. The Norteños are known for their use of gang signs, symbols, and colors to identify themselves and communicate with each other. They often wear red clothing, and they use the number “14” and the Huelga bird as symbols of their gang. Norteños also use a variety of hand signs to identify themselves and communicate with each other.

Norteños Gang Signs and Their Meanings

Norteños have a shared system of symbols, signs, and signals that they use to identify themselves and communicate with each other. But keep in mind that these symbols can vary according to different areas or neighborhoods.

Norteño gang members often refer to each other as “Ene”, which comes from the Spanish word for the letter “N”. Furthermore, the number 14 is a prevalent symbol among Norteños because the letter “N” is the fourteenth letter of the alphabet. This symbol is often written as “X4” or in Roman numerals as “XIV”. They use this 14 as showing their affiliation to Nuestra Familia.

The Norteños incorporate symbols from the Mexican American labor movement into their culture, including the sombrero (a traditional Mexican hat), machete, and the United Farm Workers logo featuring a stylized black Aztec eagle known as the “Huelga bird.” Also there is rare evidence that shows us sometimes Norteños use other Aztec symbols also. Another popular symbol is the North star.

Also there is a whistle call named “Shaaaaooooo” that is used by Norteños to communicate with each other. It is often used to signal a fight or to warn of danger.

Norteños Hand Signs

One of the main hand signs of Norteños is throwing 14 using one finger of one hand and 4 fingers by other hand.

a gang member showing 14 hand sign in front of a road
a gang member throwing 14 sign in half kneeling position
a tatted norteno member showing 14 sign
a gang member showing 14 sign using both hands

Some members of the Norteños gang create the shape of the letter “N” by folding their thumb and middle finger and then placing their ring finger on top of their index finger. This hand gesture is done with one hand.

Norte x4 member throwing N hand sign using one hand

Also, we can see Norteños create the letter N using both of their hands like this.

Norteno gang member throwing N sign using both hands

Also, there is some evidence Norteños are using a hand sign to symbolize the Huelga bird by forming both of their hands

norte member throwing huelga gang sign

Norteños Tattoos

The Norteños also tend to tattoo their symbols and words like other Hispanic gang members.

The 14 (X4 / XIV) tattoo: This tattoo is often placed on the neck, arm, or chest. It represents the 14th letter of the alphabet, which is “N,” for Nuestra Familia. “14” might be tattooed in Roman numerical form. Also to represent “14” some members use one dot and four dots.

X4 tatoo on back

The Huelga bird tattoo: It is a symbol of the United Farm Workers, a labor union that was founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. It is also used by the Norteños as a symbol of their gang.

A black and white photograph og huelga bird tatoo

There are lot of other tattoo types used by Nortenos. You can see those in below image.

Nortenos tattoos chart

Norteños Colors and Clothing

The Norteños typically wear red clothing, such as red bandanas, red hats, and red shirts to identify themselves. Also, they use the United Farm Workers flag as a symbol. They may also wear apparels of Norteño-affiliated businesses or organizations or simply use normal clothing which can be used to represent their color or symbols.

flag of united farm workers
norteno gang member wearing red color clothing
shoe laces tied to represent XIV
t shirt with number 14 on back

Norteños Graffiti

The Norteños also use graffiti to identify themselves, show power and territories. They often spray painted Norteño symbols and slogans on walls, buildings, and other surfaces and cross out rival gang graffiti. Some of the most common Norteño graffiti symbols include X4, Norte, and Huelga bird-like symbols.

Large X4 graffiti on a wall
Norte X4 graffiti on a building

For more information on gang signals and their culture, please visit our dedicated page on gang signs.

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