Sureños Gang Signs : Comprehensive Guide on How to Identify Them

Sureños Gang, also known as Southern United Raza, Sur 13, or Sureños X3, is a Mexican-American street gang that originated in Southern California, specifically the southside of Bakersfield. California is home to hundreds of Sureños gangs, each with its distinct identity in various neighborhoods. One of the most noticeable features of this gang is their use of hand signs and symbols to communicate with each other and show their presence in public areas. If you’re interested in criminal justice, sociology, or simply curious about this criminal organization or American gang culture, this article will be really helpful to you. In this research, we aim to provide a comprehensive and easily understandable study of the Sureños gang’s use of signs and symbols.

History of Sureños

Set of Surenos gang members in front of a wall

The “Sureños” gang emerged in Southern California and is known for their allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.  It originated in the 1970s during a California prison conflict involving the Mexican Mafia (La EME) and Nuestra Familia (NF). This violent rivalry led to a territorial split between gang affiliates from northern California (known as Norteños or Northerners), who aligned with NF, and those from southern California (referred to as Sureños or Southerners), who sided with La EME.  Some evidence suggests that Sureños are sometimes referred to as the “foot soldiers of the Mexican Mafia”.

If you’re interested in seeing the gang signs use by the Norteños, check out our page on Norteños gang signs.

Types of Sureños gang signs and how to identify

Sureños gang members frequently use a variety of gang signs on different occasions to display their gang affiliation. Also, they use those gang signs for disrespect to their rival gangs like norteños. Number “13”, “XIII” and “X3” are prevalent symbols among Sureños because they are involved with the LA Mexican Mafia, and “M” is the 13th letter of the alphabet. Sureños use 13 as their gang code. These gestures serve as methods of identification and recognition within their group. But keep in mind that these symbols can vary according to different areas or neighborhoods. As gang signs, we can discuss different types of them including Hand Signs, Tattoos, graffiti, colors, and clothing. Let’s discuss these signs one by one.

Sureños Hand Signs

One way to identify Sureños members is to study their hand signals as gang signs. So in our research about Sureños gangs, we found they mainly throw the letter “S” with two hands. The “S” sign stands for the first letter of the gang name “Sureños”. Most of the time gang members use the first letter of their gang as a hand sign, like Crip throwing “C” and Bloods throwing “B”. Below we listed some Sureños gang sign images collected from different sources. You can check out those images and get some ideas.

The “S” Sign

Sureños create the shape of the letter “S” using either both hands or one hand. In the below images explain how they do it.

gang member showing S sign using both hands
showing S sign using one hand

The “13” Sign

They usually throw 13 using one finger in one hand and 3 fingers in the other hand. Also they show 13 using one hand by folding their ring finger.

4 Surenos members showing 13 sign different ways using both hands

Sureños Tattoos

Tattoos can be the best way to identify gang members. Sureños also use tattoos. They use these tattoos to show their loyalty and membership to the Sureños gang. Also, they use tattoos to disrespect their rival gang. Let’s discuss some main tattoos they use.

“13” , “XIII” or “X3” Tattoo

A commonly used tattoo design is the number 13 or its Roman numeral equivalent, XIII or X3. This tattoo is usually placed on the neck, arm, or chest. It represents the 13th letter of the alphabet, “M,” which is associated with the Mexican Mafia. Some members may choose to represent the number 13 with a single dot and three dots.

13 tattoo on the back
X3 tatted on legs

“Sureños” or “South Side” Tattoo

This type of tattoo is typically placed on the chest or back of the body and is used by individuals to display their affiliation with the Sureños gang.

Surenos tatted on back
South side on the back

“Sur13” or “SUR X3” Tattoo

This particular tattoo is commonly associated with Sureños. It consists of the word “SUR” which means “South” in Spanish and it also stands for “Southern United Raza” , and the numbers “13” or “X3” which represent the 13th letter of the alphabet, which is “M”. This letter is significant as it stands for “Mexican Mafia”.

SUR13 tatoo
SUR X3 tattoo

“Two Bar and 3 dots” Tattoo

This tattoo represents the number “13” using Mayan Numerology. According to it “13” is something like below.

2 bars and 3 dots tatted on the neck

1 BAR = 5

1 DOT = 1 

“Aztec War Shield” Tattoo

Both Norteños and Sureños can be identified with Aztec culture and beliefs, however, it is more common to find the Aztec warrior shield tattoo among Sureños

Different types of Aztec war shield tattoo

Sureños Colors

Sureños mainly use the blue color and sometimes gray to represent their gang. You can often recognize a member of the Sureños by observing the colors they wear on their clothing. Also, they tend to use blue-colored graffiti to mark their territory. Sureños are not Crips. Sometimes people are misled because both gangs use Blue color.

Sureños Clothing and Accessories

Like other gangs, Sureños also have their own type of stylish clothes and accessories. They always choose blue ones. Most of the time Sureños wear Sport Clothing, such as Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Lakers.The LA Dodgers baseball hat is commonly worn by Surenos because of the color blue

A gang member wearing blue color outfit with Surenos symbols all over it

Sureños Graffiti

Graffiti is a common tool used by the Sureños to show their presence and territories. They usually spray paint Sureños symbols and slogans on walls, buildings, and other surfaces, while crossing out rival gang graffiti. Some of the most frequently used symbols include X3, sur13, and Aztec war shield symbols. Drawing graffiti on public and private properties is considered vandalism and may lead to serious legal actions.

SUR 13 blue color graffiti on a building
Surenos black color graffiti

Learn more about the history and symbolism of different gang signs.

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