The Mexican Mafia
Rachelle Cochran

The Mexican Mafia

The Mexican Mafia – La Eme- is considered to be one of the oldest, most ruthless, and powerful prison gang in the United States. La Eme is Spanish for the letter M.

The Many Faces of the Mexican Mafia



Chicano street gang members incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison located in Tracy, California, formed the Mexican Mafia in the late 1950’s. Originally built to house young male offenders, the prison eventually became home to many Mexican-American street gang members generally from Barrios or East Los Angeles neighborhoods. In this prison underworld, the Caucasian inmates usually maintained control; this eventually led to the Mexican-American inmates’ desire for more freedom, especially concerning the prison drug-trade. The main focus of the gang is to protect its members from fellow inmates and correction officers and to gain complete control over drug trafficking.

Founding Fathers of the Mexican Mafia

Thirteen members of the Maravilla gang became the beginning foundation for the Mexican Mafia, calling themselves, “Mexikanemi.” This is translated from the language Nahuatl as, “He Who Walks with God in his Heart.” The Mexikanemi made their organization similar to that of the Italian Mafia, even copying the Black Hand symbol used by the Italians. Luis “Huero Buff” Flores, who was a previous member of the Hawaiian Gardens Gang, became the initial founding member of the gang, recruiting violent members in order to control the black market activities of the prison. The violence escalated and eventually forced the California Department of Corrections to transfer some members of the Mexican Mafia to other prison facilities including San Quentin Prison. Because of these multiple prisoner transfers, the Mexican Mafia was able to further recruit members from both prison and juvenile facilities in California.

231.jpg A rival gang in opposition to the Mexican Mafia soon formed in the 1960’s by various Mexican-American (Chicano) inmates of the California state prison. They called themselves Nuestra Familia. Other rivals of La Eme include the Black Guerilla Family, Arizona’s New Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, and black street gangs.


Page 2: Rules, Membership, and Structure