The Northern California Sureño (The Upstate Sureño)

On the streets of Northern California, it’s more then just a battle over turf and power but an internal issue of struggling with self identity.

As the North and South Chicano/Latino gang conflict has spread throughout the country and even world wide, many street and prison gang landscapes have changed as a result. One of the most dramatic shifts could be found in Northern California. It’s more then just a battle over turf and power but an internal issue of struggling with self identity.

California is the birthplace of the North and South gang identity that led to the regional division of the state. This all stems from a long standing prison gang rivalry dating back over three decades ago. Now, as Norteños and Sureños can be found in parts of the U.S. like Utah, Florida, and North Carolina, it's obvious that the identity is adapting.

But here in California it’s a bit more complicated as Sureños can also be found in Northern California, ground zero of their ideological enemy. Being the oxy moron of a “Northern, Sureño” is where the major gang battle begins, dealing with their own side and themselves.

Recently this contingent of gangsters has redefined themselves as “Upstate Sureños” they feel that they are on the front lines and are responsible for taking over the Northern California street gang territory. There numbers are growing mainly due to immigration, migration and the media.

In San Jose, Ca. for example, the Sureño identity and population really started growing back in the mid 1990’s because of a flux in migration to the area. Many of these gangsters were recently arrived immigrants from various parts of Mexico who adapted to the street life for protection. This generation held allegiance to their original place of birth not their new home. This created the distinctive difference and stereotype that Norteños are American born English speakers and Sureños are immigrant born Spanish speakers. (Chicano vs. Mexicano)

This also put tarnish on their image and perception from other gangs and crews. Rival gang members perceived them as wannabe's for not being versed in the California street gang culture. And the Sureños they held their allegiance to, did not except them because they weren’t “Chicanos” but considered “Border Brothers” based in the north. They too viewed them as not real gangsters: "plastic toy soldiers." Only few self proclaimed Sureño street gangs in the north had ties to L.A. or the Mexican Mafia.

But things have changed over the past 18 years, a good amount of the "Upstate Sureños" are now culturally born and raised here in the United States and are representing their northern city. There numbers have grown on the streets and slowly in correctional facilities making them a force to be reckoned with and a contingent of new soldiers that can not be ignored.

They are now currently accepted by their Southern California counterparts, and authorities suspect this is a prison power play. As a result “Upstaters” are now more connected then ever before. San Jose Police report that they are coming into contact with L.A based gang members on the streets and there has also been a spike in gang crimes on behalf of the “Upstate Sureños”.

The pressure is on to establish themselves. Although they may be accepted they are still not seen as equal to a quote “Real Sureño”, in state prisons they are often used for dirty work (Life threatening or demeaning duties) and constantly put in positions to prove themselves worthy of being labeled a “South Sider”.

Equality does not come easy for the “Upstaters” because of one simple fact, like it or not they are technically a “Norteño” in the eyes of a lot of Southern California gangsters who have been born and bred biased towards anyone from the opposite side of the state.

There is an internal struggle that goes on as well because of this. A self identified “Upstate Sureño” who wants to remain nameless, shared with me a personal experience he had while incarcerated at a state facility. While kicking it with a mix of homies from throughout Los Angeles County, conversation hit the topic of clowning on Northern California cites “Fools from up North are punks, F#%k San Jo”. Although the comments may have been directed at rivals, they were general statements. This struck a chord, twisting his own self identity. “What? I’m from Northern Califás” making him angry and wanting to stand up for his city. But because of the social dynamic he was in, he was forced to keep his mouth shut.

I have also witnessed this struggle with at risk youth at the junior high school level. While facilitating groups I presented San Jose history to instill pride, from César Chávez to the Lowrider culture of the 1970’s. The youngsters ate it up except for the self identified Sureño kids. They were skeptical of the facts and were in disbelief almost not wanting to accept it. It was a reaction I didn’t plan for, but it makes sense. These kids are already being affected by the bias Sureño belief system. (The thought that the north is nothing and everything revolves around the south). They wanted to be proud but felt guilty for it at the same time.

Culturally belonging to the south can be easy by embracing the superficial clothing style and image. But when it comes to holding an idealism that conflicts with your regional identity that’s when it can get difficult. Representing your northern town and yet showing hatred for the same region you are from. There is an identity issues that most will not admit or even realize.

In the neighborhoods it’s under the guise, “We are taking over” that resonates and makes this identity possible. Most “Upstaters” will not even be aware of the inequality found on their own side until they hit the state penitentiary. And many who have experienced it are not sharing this with their homies on the street.

At this point what will become of the “Upstate Sureño” movement is unclear, for it’s still relatively young and growing. One thing for certain is, on the streets of Northern California the violence will continue to rise as they become both victim and perpetrator. But internally are they ready to except that equality may never come from the southern region that they represent or will this eventually lead them to a separation of gang ties and possibly their Sureño identity.

This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Community  / San Jose//South Bay 
This article is untagged. Browse other tags ».

Comments

U know I read things like this n can't help to wonder if they really knw what they are fighting for u knw someone has to break the bondage that the devil has over these gangs Cuz if u really stop and think about it we as parents are the ones who really end up paying the price whn our children are murdered n for what a color I just wonder is all really worth it n y all we could do is pray for these gangs n help those who wanna get help becuz no matter what the devil is a liar n we as parents need to step up n take control of our children becuz in the end its us getting that phone call in the middle of the night Cuz as for me I love my children w all my heart n I do what I can to keep thm safe n away from gangs n I pray for all u gang members out there to open your eyes before its too late lord I ask that u lay your hands upon these gang members n touch thm to Maybe they open their eyes before another parent gotta bury their child or innocent children who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time amen

What up Dave. Great article, thought I'd comment since I'm working down here with the youngsters

The whole 'identity thing' is unique to Northern California, and in reality the big question for Norteno's/ and Sureno's In Nothern Cali is "what does it mean to be Mexican". That's the Clash- Chicano identity vs migrant identity. For Sureno's down here in L.A. even the idea that Norteno's act 'black' or are down with the 'hyphy' movement to them is a sign that even Norteno's are struggling for an identity. Not being real 'Mexicans'.

Something that I've noticed is that for BOTH Nortenos and Surenos in Northern Cali- is that both groups are very "cause" driving... For Norteno's 'honoring' the farm workers movement, and for Sureno's 'honoring' their Mexican Migrant identity...... But for Sureno's in L.A., they don't really have a 'cause' per se, other then their hood. In L.A. being a Sureno simply means that your gang is paying taxes and is guaranteed protection.

In L.A. the number 13 simply means that when they go to prison they are being protected by the Southern Mexican Card. That's all that it means- Even non Mexican gangs like Armenians, Central Americans and Filipinos pay taxes so that their gangs could be protected by the Mexican Card, AP13 and Temple Street (which is a Mexican/ Filipino gang in L.A.) are examples.

In Nothern Cali, Surenos assume that in some way they are defending an 'honorable' cause by rivaling Norteno's who put down the migrant Mexicans---- when in L.A. for Sureno's that doesn't even matter.

What up Dave. Great article, thought I'd comment since I'm working down here with the youngsters

The whole 'identity thing' is unique to Northern California, and in reality the big question for Norteno's/ and Sureno's In Nothern Cali is "what does it mean to be Mexican". That's the Clash- Chicano identity vs migrant identity. For Sureno's down here in L.A. even the idea that Norteno's act 'black' or are down with the 'hyphy' movement to them is a sign that even Norteno's are struggling for an identity. Not being real 'Mexicans'.

Something that I've noticed is that for BOTH Nortenos and Surenos in Northern Cali- is that both groups are very "cause" driving... For Norteno's 'honoring' the farm workers movement, and for Sureno's 'honoring' their Mexican Migrant identity...... But for Sureno's in L.A., they don't really have a 'cause' per se, other then their hood. In L.A. being a Sureno simply means that your gang is paying taxes and is guaranteed protection.

In L.A. the number 13 simply means that when they go to prison they are being protected by the Southern Mexican Card. That's all that it means- Even non Mexican gangs like Armenians, Central Americans and Filipinos pay taxes so that their gangs could be protected by the Mexican Card, AP13 and Temple Street (which is a Mexican/ Filipino gang in L.A.) are examples.

In Nothern Cali, Surenos assume that in some way they are defending an 'honorable' cause by rivaling Norteno's who put down the migrant Mexicans---- when in L.A. for Sureno's that doesn't even matter.

Dave in "SUR", SUR stands for Southern, United, Raza one big word "Untied". The L.A. county foo's dont see that kuz their from the South not the north, thats why they say F*** north when their Surenos from the north putting it down for the big L.A. county Surenos them foo's need to notice that. Either ways upstate or not It shoudnt even matter any ways their both their both putting it down for Surenos.

I am a black man and I am from Texas and hang out with who ever is around at the time. I do know how it all started and see and understand whats going on but don't understand why. It was all Mexico before .They should except that they are one people and understand what the real fight is about and who really is in control of it all.Its about money and drugs and dealing with that there will be conflict and in that game eventually you have to deal with your enemy to score or sell so that being said we should all think before we act and look your enemy in the eyes and realizes that we are killing family and me personally !put family first. I currently live in northern Cali and am respected by both northerners and southerners .Much respect, A.J.

Eddie looks like another confused "northern sureno". You can school down these fools & a lot of them will not just give it up & see they're wrong. I will continue to say northern, because upstate is another thing people are confused about, because there is an "upstate California" & it's not all of northern California.

I agree with the writer for the most part, and I agree with some of the comment, but one; The Southern Mexican claim his regian Southern Cal, a Northern Mexican Clams his regian, Northern Cal, but with the Up-State Surenos who clam Both (Nor-Cal) and Calm to Fight for the SOUTH is confussion. SUR dose stand for "Southern United Raza", if your a True SOUTHERNER, but Up-State, Nor-Cal Surenos fight for something else, I do agree with the dude above who stated its "Cause" driven, I do agree that Nortenos forget whom they are and adopted the 'Black Hip Hop Culture" of gangs, and I truly belive that the Up-State Sureno "Cause" is a re-action to Racisum from the Mexican American "Chicano" whom Discriminated againest them.

no 13 doesn't JUST mean protection so stop saying that. they know it means being a sureno and they know it means that they are rivals with the busters up north. the sur don't have no cause they don't need one they just know their down for their people and for the 13 letter

If you a sureno born in Nor cal or never been SoCal i bet you saw "American me" 20times.Many nortenos dress cortez n kakiz, while some sagg, that doesnt mean we are black, juzt that we think that kakiz n cortez been played out since the 80s. This is 2012

Post a comment

Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS