Hispanic Gangs - Cultural Ties To Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America

The term "Hispanic" is merely a political designation to refer to people of Latino descent as a distinct populace. Latino would be more appropriate

This broad category generally refers to gangs with cultural ties often includes indigenous Chicanos, Mexicans, El Salvadorians, Cubans, South Americans, and anyone else from a Spanish-speaking country.

Hispanic street gang members often dress distinctively, use monikers, display colors, communicate through graffiti, and bear tattoos (frequently denoting monikers or gang affiliations). Often intergenerational, the gangs usually have a long tradition that inspires extreme loyalty by members, including a strict code of silence. This unwritten code emphasizes that members never cooperate with law enforcement or other authorities and never inform. For this reason, many agencies regard Hispanic gangs as more difficult to investigate than relatively newer gangs. As with many other gangs, membership may require commission of a crime.

Hispanic gangs, whose names frequently refer to their territories (such as
streets), tend to be highly turf oriented, a characteristic that often triggers
violence when the neighborhood or barrio is perceived as threatened by rival
gangs or government agencies. Violence toward rivals is often regarded as
legitimate behavior, with no insult too small to go unanswered. Crimes
committed by Hispanic gangs include homicide, assault, drug trafficking,
robbery, and auto theft. Particularly in the Western States, agencies observe
that Hispanic gang leadership is quite fluid and may be assumed by any member who has the skills required at any given moment.

The different levels of membership complicate the issue of gang organizational structure. Thus, when a person is identified or voluntarily self-identifies, very little is being conveyed about that person's authority over others or even about personal involvement in gang activities.

Among the varying degrees of membership, there are the so-called "hardcore," who are able to mobilize the others.

There are also peripherally associated members, or "associates" some of whom hang out with the others for the status and recognition they receive,

Some youths engage in more gang activities than others; some might be called "the wannabes" who move out of the influence of the gang on the basis of whether or not a program or other interest intercepts drawing them completely away from the gang. Within the "wannabes" there are many little brothers and sisters, sometimes referred to as "pee wees."

Source: in part -USDOJ

Language within the Latino community

When the community refers to "la choleria" or "Los Cholos," they mean both males and females, mostly gang-affiliated, but including those who are non-gang affiliated sporting the gang styles and cholo appearance. This consists of excessive make-up, strikingly harsh eye liner applied in two or three colors for the females and the cholo look for the boys.

Cholo language today is a distinct blend of barrio language, of Calo (a dialect of the entire Spanish speaking Southwest) as well as a more recent vernacular charged with expletives and many terms from the criminal and drug domain.


It must be stressed that not all of these terms are used exclusively by gangs. Some of the terms are also a part of the language spoken in the community.

chingao - (pronounced ching-gow) (with the loss of voiced fricatives /d/ in the
intervocalic position. Might be used as chingao hombre  = Damn, man.

Similarly, "mojado" becomes "mojao." Dropping the voiced fricative /d/ in the intervocalic position occurred throughout when speaking Spanish.

No chinges con migo - (don't mess with me) or "No chinges."

Chingasos (go to blows, a beating)

el mas chingon - the toughest, most macho (male)

la mas chingona - the toughest (female) or the top dog

Estar firme - to get down, or get yourself together, although to get down for someone also means to go to the ultimate for that person or for the gang. To have back-up in a sense.

Pinche - Ese pinche vato - That f---ing guy.

Puto - Homosexual

La ruca,la loca - references to females.

Mi chava - my girlfriend

Una chavalona - a young good looking female.

Vatos - dudes, guys.

Pendejo - fool

Lambiche - kiss ass, a brown noser

Camaradas - homeboys/ and girls

Hecho tiempo conmigo - Someone did time with me

"Mamacita" often spoken with a lecherous overtone sometimes derisively addressed to good looking females or female passers-by.

Esta mas loco que la fregada/que la madre/ que la chingada all meant "He's crazier than hell!"

Tecatos/tecatas - heroin users

No me anden vacilando - Don't be pulling my leg, putting me on, messing with me.

cuete - gun

an 8-ball - a quantity of cocaine
(a number of drug-related jargon words were used frequently)

mucho pedo - a big rucus, to make trouble

no esta limpio - he's not drug free

Que relaje - an embarrassment /also refers to males or females who squeal to the police on the camaradas/the bros/homegirls,

Que honda - greeting like "What's happening"

Latino street gangs -  A major issue in the U.S.


The links below are examples of a few of the more well known Hispanic street and prison gangs.  The list is by no means all inclusive.



Robert Walker

This page was last updated on 03/14/2014


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