Ending Varrio Warfare is not as simple as it sounds. Varrio Warfare in terms of Nortenos vs. Surenos is rooted in pre-chicanismo times. It is our version of Israelis vs. Palestinians, they are the same people yet they are enemies. Our varrio warfare started in San Quentin State Prison, between La Nuestra Familia(Nortenos) and La Eme(Surenos). A member of La Eme stole some shoes from a Northener, the shoes did not fit him so he sold them to another Eme member named Robot. Robot was called on the shoes by the original owner, Hector Padilla of Nuestra Familia, after a brief physical confrontation, they didn’t know it, but they threw the first two fists of our Chicano Varrio Warfare which would remain to this day after decades.
It might seem pathetic to fight for shoes, to the point where to kill one another. In prison, it is a completely different society, inmates hold onto their belongings very deeply because it is esentially all they have and can be used as cash or be traded for other things. If you don’t stand up for yourself even with something small like shoes, the rest of the prison population will take you for a punk and will abuse you themselves in the future, to the point of taking away your manhood because anything you have is esentially up for grabs because you did not fight for your property in the past.
La Eme is a much older, larger clique than the Nortenos. Back in the day everyone was in La Eme and remained a soldier for them. Most of the original Nuestra Familia members originally were born from the south, excluding one or two I believe who were born in Bakersfield. La Eme was formed to protect Chicano/Mexicano inmates in prison. They offered protection from the Blacks and Whites who were physically bigger and stronger than most Mexicanos who were known to be short and stocky for the most part. They were able to stand united against other factions like The Black Guerilla Family and Aryan Brotherhood members. La Eme started abusing its positions and started charging high “rent” or demanded valuables too often from those who they were protecting, sometimes it got out of hand and they would attack other Mexicanos and Chicanos themselves, destroying the bond of carnalismo that we all once had in the prisons.
La Nuestra Familia was then born to protect Chicanos and Mexicanos, forming an alliance where they stood united against the more powerful, larger, Eme family. The animosity built between them over the years. While the Northeners were relatively small in numbers, they stressed quality over quantity and claimed the Surenos would only attack if there were a group of them. The Nortenos built on this and attacked La Eme’s concept of war, you have to consider both La Eme and NF(Nuestra Familia) are built on Chicanos and Mexicanos. In prison, they both stress the learning of our history, the Mexica, some of them are able to speak fluently in Nahuatl and it is not unheard of to be vocal about Mexica War Chants to taunt the guards and taunt the rival group.
You have both sides calling on each other’s honor for War. Both sides kill civilians and do not keep it between the soldiers. Both sides funnel harmful drugs like crank and cocaine into the community. It might seem elementary to argue over details or may seem like outright bickering but they do make a very strong argument for why Varrio warfare continues to this day. Both sides question each other’s machismo, “balls” when it comes to warfare, Nortenos claim that Surenos won’t fight you one on one, and Surenos claim the same. When you have a clique against another, it turns personal, it is not over red or blue, the fight is engaged because of other reasons like they jumped your homie or simple carnalismo exercised within the cliques. A homie backing up another homie no matter what.
From there builds the taunts each group have each other that are definitely insulting. The Northerners are referred to as Farmeros, because argiculture land dominates Northern California. Other ridiculing names for Northerners are Nortontos, Busters, While the Surenos are city boys, they are referred to as rats, scraps. The colors are only an excuse for war and the ability to practice warfare. Examples are these two insults, the first is from a Northener point of view “The reason why scraps wear blue is because they’re wanna be cops, always snitchin’ n shit”. This one is from a Sureno point of view “The reason why you guys wear red is so they can see you at night picking your onions”.
While the insults are elementary, they do attack one’s ego, especially among young males who have defiance for conformity. When you have members on either side, they will build cliques and therein forms the bonds of brotherhood. The sense of belonging to a group where they would roll with you and defend/back you up to the end. The bonds are tighter when they are not just Sureno for example, but a clique within the Sureno faction. An example is Pecos Pero Locos, PPL. So all the Southeners within PPL will definitely back up their homies no matter what, not just against Nortenos. Once again, the colors are just cosmetics to what really does happen and how they physically engage society.
In more contemporary times, Southeners are more of a mix of recent immigrants from Mexico, 1st gens and multi-gens. Northeners are more dominated by 1st generation and multi gen Mexican Americans. The Surenos insult the Northeners for not speaking spanish fluently or if at all. They counter argue the logic as being gabacho and then go on to insult them and say that is the reason why they are in bed(allied) with the Aryan Brotherhood. The Surenos call the Northeners as being “nigger lovers” for being allied with the Black Guerilla Family. This \feed the animosity between the more Mexican American dominated(North) clique and the Newly Arrivals, who tend to join with the Surenos moreso than with Nortenos. They build this animosity between city and country boys, and recent immigrant vs citizen. So the Surenos use this to their advantage when they regularly insult just to instigate a physical match.
The Surenos do claim that Northeners have lost their Mexicanismo, that they don’t speak the “mother” tongue of Mexico that is Spanish, while Northeners tend to have a more indigenous-centric view about it. Both do, however learn the ancestor’s ways and use that when recruiting for soldiers. It largely depends what prison the inmates are in, the opinions will differ.
This Norteno vs. Sureno Varrio Warfare has been tried to be stopped by one of the more famous Eme members named Cheyenne Cadena. His cousin who was in Nuestra Familia, name is Gonzalo “Chalo” Hernandez tried to request his cousin call off the war declared by La Eme in Folsom State Prison and Chino, to kill any NF member on site. The peace was agreed upon for a short while until La Eme confused by information they received from kites and wilas, broke it the truce and stabbed some Nuestra Familia members. After that, NF declared war and stabbed Cheyenne Cadena, threw him over the pier and when his body hit the floor, Nortenos stabbed him multiple times again. This scenario might sound very similiar to the scene in “American Me” when Olmos character gets stabbed by his own clique, while the movie was based on Cheyenne, most of the facts were changed, in real life, he was stabbed by NF, in the movie he was stabbed and killed by his own.
To end or even mitigate Varrio Warfare is definitely not an easy task, ultimately, to some people they feel the change has to come from within the Norteno and Sureno cliques, and they are La Eme and Nuestra Familia who are the ultimate “shot callers”. Bangers will not listen to anyone outside of the clique as far as their lifestyle, they will exclaim that they won’t understand. According to some “veteranos”, the change will never happen because the shot callers have to constantly fight their own younger soldiers who are out for power, even among the shot callers, for example, Norteno shot callers mostly reside in Pelican Bay, while in another prison the supreme shot caller in that prison will call for actions that is against those in Pelican Bay. So the constant struggle of power is an obstacle.
There is also the issue of honor, the older more experienced bangers “remember the days” of when war was honor and no civilians were murdered at least if they didn’t interfer with banger business. When soldiers were more loyal and trustworthy. Nowadays it is not like that, where you have your own bunkmate snitching on you or even helping carry out your assination because you were hypothetically “slipping”. There are even some veteranos who still are against the coca and crank that is distributed throughout the community by their own. So have to include greed and “money is power” when trying to understand this problem. When coke and crank were introduced in the 60s and 70s, it changed Varrio warfare forever, it was no longer a simple rivarly between cliques, but a struggle for money on drug sales.
Instiling and teaching both factions REAL “brown pride” as far our Mexicanos unidos is one way to mitigate Varrio warfare, but they already twist this information when they teach Mexica history to the inmates and few of the general population. We have to take this and show the bangers on the streets that they are twisting the information in prison. Real carnalismo is carnalismo with your people in whole, not just a clique. Both sides claim brown pride when both sides do not exercise it.