Small Wars Journal

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 25: 18th Street (Barrio 18) Demonic & Santa Muerte Affinity Linkages

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 2:50pm

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 25: 18th Street (Barrio 18) Demonic & Santa Muerte Affinity Linkages

Robert J. Bunker and Angelo Thomas 

The majority of past maras-focused dark spirituality research has centered on the relationship of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) to this form of veneration and worship. MS-13 links to such magico-religious activities—which presently are active at clica (clique) and individual levels—are well documented. They were evident with the origins of the gang roughly four decades ago, even though such expressions were initially considered ‘Satanic-light’ due to their derivation from Heavy Metal and Stoner influences.[1] The 18th Street gang (Barrio 18), however, which some consider more sophisticated than MS-13 and is not currently under the US national security spotlight, has remained an ongoing enigma concerning its linkages to such practices. This research note seeks to provide some initial and exploratory insights—primarily but not exclusively via imagery interpretation—into 18th Street dark spiritual activities.

Key Information: “18 street gang.” xv3dc818. YouTube. 13 February 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hACl23FySiE:

Image 1

IMAGE 1: “666, Horns & Pitch Fork Tail, Lil Devil” South Side 18th Street Clique 

4:33 in 7:43 Video [Screen Shot]

Image 2

IMAGE 2: “Horns, Devil Tail, 666” South Side 18th Street Clique

4:38 in 7:43 Video [Screen Shot]

Key Information: “Triple 666 18st XV3 Gang Big boy 2010.” sergio18st. YouTube. 6 June 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bzu9mTvhZk:

Image 3

IMAGE 3: “666, Demonic Entity” 

0:19 in 2:29 Video [Screen Shot]

Image 4

IMAGE 4: “Demonic Entity standing on Skulls with Machete”

1:40 in 2:29 Video [Screen Shot]

Key Information: “XV3 18ST King Lil G 2005.” sergio18st. YouTube. 7 Feb 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9qt_lUrpwY:

Image 5

IMAGE 5: “666” on right Forearm of Member on the Left

1:36 in 4:40 Video [Screen Shot]

Key Information: Pandilleros actúan inspirados por ritos satánicos.” Diario1.Com. 26 February 2014, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2014/02/los-ritos-satanicos-de-las-pandillas/:

…El altar, que está dedicado a la Santa Muerte, fue encontrado en una casa deshabitada de  la colonia Valle Verde del municipio de Apopa, en San Salvador. Esta vez durante un operativo del plan Casa Segura, el pasado mes de noviembre.

Junto al santuario también se encontró un libro de brujería, una cajita de incienso, puros y otros objetos utilizados para realizar el culto a la “Santa Muerte”.

Uno de los agentes de la Unidad Antipandillas de la Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) que  participó en el operativo en Apopa,dijo a Diario1 que estas escenas es común encontrarlas en las casas habitas por pandilleros. También en las casas destroyers que éstos utilizan para planificar sus delitos…

…Según el agente, las pandillas MS y 18 utilizan casi los mismos símbolos para realizar sus cultos satánicos.

“Vaya, por ejemplo, he visto que ambas pandillas usan a la virgen de Guadalupe como un símbolo que les ayuda y los protege. La diferencia es que la mara MS le pone cara de demonio y la 18 la muestra tal como la utilizan los religiosos”, expresó…

Key Information: “Barrio 18 aliados de la Santa Muerte .'.” Facebook. 26 December 2015-4 January 2018, https://www.facebook.com/Barrio-18-aliados-de-la-Santa-Muerte--944492052300964/:

Image 6

IMAGE 6: “Barrio 18 aliados de la Santa Muerte .'.”

Key Information: “Allanan guarida del Barrio 18 y encuentran altar a la Santa Muerte.” TN23. YouTube. 15 November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npkmIiRpuzA:

Image 7

IMAGE 7: “Allanan guarida del Barrio 18 y encuentran altar a la Santa Muerte.” TN23.                                                                2:43 in 6:25 Minute Video [Screen Shot]

Key Information: Esvin Lopez, “Detenidos 2 supuestos pandilleros que tenían altar a la Santa Muerte.” Publinews. 26 February 2017, https://www.publinews.gt/gt/noticias/2017/02/26/detenidos-2-supuestos-pandilleros-tenian-altar-santa-muerte.html:

Agentes de la DEIC realizaron la captura de los dos supuestos miembros de la Mara 18; en el lugar se halló un altar a la Santa Muerte.

La Subdirección General de Investigación Criminal de la Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) realizó la detención de  dos supuestospandilleros  pertenecientes a la Mara del Barrio 18 en Villa Nueva.

El lugar de la operación, realizada por agentes de la División Especializada en Investigación Criminal (Deic), fue en la 3a. calle “A” 4-60 colonia Guajitos, zona 21, donde fueron capturadas las dos personas.

Los aprehendidos, según el informe policial, son los responsables de extorsionar en todo el sector de la zona 21 y también de cometer asesinatos en contra de las personas que se niegan a pagar la extorsión.

A los jóvenes, identificados … se les incautó 2 armas de fuego, una tipo pistola y un revólver. Además, en el inmueble se halló un altar a la Santa Muerte, en el cual también había varios enseres dedicados a alguna especie de rito.

Key Information: “Localizan un aterrador altar a la santa Muerte durante allanamientos.” Soy 502. 27 February 2017, https://www.soy502.com/articulo/localizan-terrorifico-altar-muerte-durante-allanmiento-50172:

Durante un allanamiento realizado en la zona 21 capitalina, las autoridades localizaron un altar a la santa Muerte compuesto por dos imágenes, varias calaveras y copas vacías.

En la diligencia se detuvo a una pareja que supuestamente integra la clica Wacos Locotes Sureños del Barrio 18…

Además fueron incautadas cuatro hojas con distintos números telefónicos de personas que posiblemente son extorsionadas, así como un cuaderno, una pistola Bul Cherokee 9 milímetros, un cargador y 12 cartuchos útiles, un revólver 38 especial con tres cargas útiles, 1 caja de municiones (50) calibre 9 milímetros y 2 teléfonos celulares.

Image 8

IMAGE 8: Localizan altar a la santa Muerte durante un allanamiento en la zona 21 capitalina. Source: Policía Nacional Civil de Guatemala; PNC [For Public Distribution] 27 February 2017, https://www.soy502.com/articulo/localizan-terrorifico-altar-muerte-durante-allanmiento-50172.

Key Information: “Investigan si ‘Pandilla 18’ estaría detrás de sacrificio de mujer.” La Tribuna. 9 May 2018,  https://www.latribuna.hn/2018/05/09/investigan-pandilla-18-estaria-detras-sacrificio-mujer/:

FIRMA” DE LA MARA

Lo que hace pensar a los agentes de la DPI [the Dirección Policial de Investigaciones] que miembros pandilleriles de “la 18” podrían estar detrás del crimen de Gloria Liceth, son las señales dejadas como “firmas” en la escena del crimen, así como el tipo de “grafiti”: “Pacto 2018” o “Docto (documento) 2018, y en otra pared: “Doc Graffitihn”.

La víctima fue torturada y drogada durante el rito satánico, según información preliminar en poder de la DPI y la Unidad de Maras y Pandillas.

En relación a rituales satánicos de la mara “MS 13”, este hecho criminal en la aldea de Corralitos carece de evidencias como para que se le adjudique a esta asociación ilícita.

A diferencia de la pandilla 18, la MS-13 se identifica con símbolos como calaveras, vírgenes con rostros demoníacos o la presencia de la imagen de la “Santa Muerte”, según las evidencias halladas en similares escenas del crimen que se han encontrado de ambas organizaciones.

“Aunque el satanismo está más arraigado en la Mara Salvatrucha o MS-13, en la 18 también realizan ofrendas satánicas, pero cada grupo criminal tiene sus propias características que plasman en su cultos”, reveló una fuente policial que trabaja en la investigación del caso.[2]

Key Information: Julio Hernandez, “Preliminar: Localizan armas de fuego durante operativo contra integrantes de pandillas.” Radio TGW. 26 September 2019, https://radiotgw.gob.gt/preliminar-localizan-armas-de-fuego-durante-operativo-contra-integrantes-de-pandillas/:

La Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) realiza allanamientos en inmuebles de la zona 18 capitalina en donde según la investigación previa, se esconden integrantes de la pandilla del Barrio 18, quienes realizan diversos delitos en el sector, entre estos, cobro de extorsión y sicariato.

La PNC informó que son 3 los allanamientos que se efectúan este jueves en la zona 18 en conjunto con fiscales del Ministerio Público.

Hasta el momento se han localizado armas de fuego, municiones y un altar a la santa muerte en uno de los inmuebles, hallazgo que se ha vuelto muy común cuando se efectúan allanamientos en inmuebles donde se ocultan integrantes de esta pandilla, catalogada como una de las más sanguinarias de Centroamérica.

La PNC, a través de la División Nacional Contra el Desarrollo Criminal De las Pandillas (DIPANDA), brindará los detalles completos del operativo al finalizar el operativo.

Image 9

IMAGE 9: Santa Muerte shrine in a dwelling Barrio 18 members were in during a PNC raid.” 

Source: Policía Nacional Civil de Guatemala [@PNCdeGuatemala], Twitter. 26 September 2019, https://twitter.com/PNCdeGuatemala/status/1177227981728690176?s=20.

Third Generation Gang Analysis

18th Street (Barrio 18) linkages to dark spirituality will be addressed from within the context of both United States (CONUS) and outside of the country (OCONUS) perspectives, with the latter focusing on the gang’s presence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). The social media IMAGES 1-5 identified in this note are representative of primarily 18th Street cliques and members from Los Angeles or having an affinity for that geographic location. A visual and narrative interpretation of these images—primarily from tribute videos posted on social media—is as follows:

IMAGE 1 (2008): ‘Lil Devil’ is the moniker for a 18th Street South Side (SS) clique gang member. 666 represents ‘18th Street’ as well as the ‘Mark of the Beast.’ Included in the image are devil horns and a pitch fork tail. ‘Lil Devil’ is dressed as a ‘cool homie’ with no shirt and tattoos of women on his arms, LA on his breast, and 18s on his body. He carries a smoking pistol with the smoke saying ‘Enemigos’ (Enemies).  

IMAGE 2 (2008): Another ‘Devil’ is represented in this image belonging to the 18th Street South Side (SS) clique. He is wearing a tank top and shorts and has a tatted upper body with images of women, clowns, a skull, LA, and 18s on it. He is carrying a sawed off shotgun and a pistol in his belt.  He sports devil horns and a serpent tail and has 666 below him.

IMAGE 3 (2010; 2019): The image of a true demonic figure with white eyes (no pupils), razor sharp teeth, and pointed ears is shown. The head has LA and 666 tattooed on it and the face has an 18 tattoo.  

IMAGE 4 (2010; 2019): The image of an 18th Street gang member with horns and a bandana is shown on top of a mound of skulls. Blood is dripping from the arms and hands of the gangster who is holding a blood soaked machete. A tattooed right arm and 18 on the shirt of the gang member are also evident.  

IMAGE 5 (2005; 2020): Three 18th Street (XV3) gang members from left to right wearing sports shirts with the numbers 99 (=18), 18, and 18 are evident. On the right forearm of the gangster on the left, the numbers 666 adding up to 18 and signifying the ‘Mark of the Beast’ are present.

The preceding 18th Street ‘demonic’ affinity within the context of this imagery appears more ideological than spiritual in orientation. In many ways, this can be considered ‘Satanic-light’ with those gang members accepting of this imagery—the percentages with the gang presently unknown—valuing it solely for its edgy coolness and badass connotations.

No 18th Street imagery or textual linkages to Satanic altars or practices taking place within the US was identified while researching this note. The same could also be said for Santa Muerte associations—which appears counter-intuitive—but no such evidence was found.[3] Unlike MS-13, the 18th Street gang did not have a dark spirituality orientation during its founding and still appears, at least within the United States, to lag behind them in such worship. Currently, no mention of 18th Street members engaging in Satanic activities or sacrifices in the US have made the headline news in contrast to Mara Salvatrucha.[4]

The Facebook page ““Barrio 18 aliados de la Santa Muerte .'” (i.e. Barrio 18 allies of Santa Muerte) from which IMAGE 6 is drawn is an 18th Street affinity site active from December 2015 through January 2018. It appears more Central American in origin given its Spanish usage, posts, and use of the term “Barrio 18” as opposed to XV3, 18St, or other US term and clique terminology. This site provides us with initial insights and a transition into 18th Street OCONUS spiritual expressions in the NTCA.

 Barrio 18, as an extension of 18th Street, in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala has become—for the want of a better term— increasingly feral from a magio-religious perspective, as has its deadly rival MS-13 or Barrio 13. The gang’s LA street culture and structure has blended with that of individuals from the lower socio-economic rungs of societies found within El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala whose agrarian influences make them more accepting of the supernatural and a world in which witches and sorcerers exist. 

 This shift in spiritual orientation—from the Los Angeles ideological ‘Satanic-light’ approach to one with an at times deeper and darker magio-religious perspective—is readily evident in IMAGEs 7-9. A visual and narrative interpretation of these images is as follows:

IMAGE 7 (2016): This improvised Santa Muerte shrine consists of a black t-shirt, bearing her praying image in white and tan placed on a backboard set upon the floor. On the floor below the t-shirt, four lit Santa Muerte candles (for petition focusing purposes) are positioned alongside two bottles of alcohol and a glass containing a cigar. Both of the latter are items which can serve as offerings and means to activate the shrine via a devotee spitting alcohol or blowing smoke upon the Santa Muerte image. The protective shrine was found during a national police raid in Guatemala involving Barrio 18 members engaging in extortion activities. Narcotics (marijuana), cell phones, notes on extortion victims, and assault rifles and their ammunition were also recovered in the raid.[5]

IMAGE 8 (2017): This is clearly the darkest of the Barrio 18 Santa Muerte shrines identified.  It was discovered in El Salvador and has a sinister tone to it suggesting power and control. The shrine was tied to two members of the Wacos Locotes Sureños del Barrio 18 clique who were likely engaging in street extortion. The shrine consists of two Santa Muerte statuettes that are black in color—generally seen as being more curse and curse-protective based in nature—along with five ceramic human skills and four glass goblets. Two hand guns—a semi automatic and a revolver, along with their bullets—are evident along with two cell phones, cash, a black beaded necklace with a black cross, and a paper with a listing of extortion contacts and their phone numbers. Also visible in the image is an ID card, which may have belonged to one of the gang members. Like the rest of the functional artifacts (e.g. the hand guns, bullets, and phones), this item may have been gaining magical powers while residing on the shrine.[6]      

IMAGE 9 (2019): This simple tabletop Santa Muerte shrine was discovered during a raid on Barrio 18 members in Guatemala. It consists of a black Santa Muerte statuette along with a pistol, clip, and bullets next to it that are likely gaining some magical power from their close proximity.  The impoverished shrine also contains limited quantities of alcohol, cigarettes, and chocolate kisses which can all be considered minor gifts. The open container and glass of alcohol (whose contents were likely sprayed out of the mouth onto the statuette) and the cigarette butts (whose smoke may have been blown on the statuette) can be seen as attempts to activate the statuette’s power.  A candle is traditionally used for petition-focusing purposes so the burnt candle indicates such was likely the case here. The inclusion of the vase of brightly colored flowers below the shrine—which may represent an offering—suggests it is not inherently evil in orientation although the Barrio 18 members in the sector in which the raid was conducted were engaging in contract killing in addition to street extortion activities.[7]            

What these images and other supporting information convey is the existence of an array of Barrio 18 dark spiritual practices along a continuum. On the more criminally benign or gray side, the veneration or worship of Santa Muerte is taking place in which narcotics trafficking, extortion, and similar activities are petitioned for protective purposes.  At the other darker extreme, death magic and actual human sacrifices are manifesting themselves.[8] These are taking place in a shifting syncretic blending of Santa Muerte, ‘the Beast’ (as a demonic representation), and Satanic practices, resulting in an emerging form of pandillas and maras ‘Death cult worship.’ To what extent these practices are taking place within Barrio 18 as opposed to Barrio 13 (MS-13) is unknown, but they are ongoing and have been taking place for at least some decades now. One La Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) anti-gang unit investigator who was involved in a raid in Apopa, El Salvador in 2014 explains that both the 13 and 18 pandillas now use much of the same symbology in their cultos satánicos.[9]  

The following passage from a prison interview of a Barrio 18 member in Guatemala in 2017 by BBC Mundo highlights the growing importance of Santa Muerte to the gang. The gang member, along with the pre-requisite Barrio 18 tattoos, also sports the tattoo of ‘a skull with a black cloak and a scythe’ (una calavera con manto negro y guadaña) on his left leg. He explains that the gang only believes in itself and Santa Muerte:

Me lo dice y se remanga los jeans y me muestra los tatuajes que luce en la pierna izquierda. Entre otros símbolos típicos del Barrio 18 sellados con tinta permanente, se aprecia una calavera con manto negro y guadaña.

Me explica que es en lo único que cree la pandilla, además de la propia pandilla: la Santa Muerte, esa figura popular de origen mexicano que personifica la muerte y es objeto de culto por unos y tachada de diabólica por otros.[10]

Additionally, an NPR interview with former gang member El Cholo in Guatemala is illustrative of even earlier dark spirituality links. That member ran with a number of street gangs, including Mara 18 which he joined in 1998 at age ten, and engaged in ten homicides:

To dedicate your soul, you have to make a mark of the three 6s. I have them on my chest. There are women who get involved in satanic rites. They make a star of six points: salt, ash, cemetery dirt, bone dust, black candles and blood. Through magic, when the fire comes the devil is present. They have to do this ritual in the cemetery. Lots of people need money, they need protection, and that's why they do it.

I've done human sacrifice twice. I sacrificed a family of 13 through black magic. We made a voodoo doll, we stuck it with needles, and the person it represents dies easily.[11]

The mark of the ‘three 6s’ equaling 18 can clearly been seen in IMAGE 5 on another 18th Street gang member’s forearm. This would confirm him as a Mara 18 member when referring to his Satanic practices. The other gang he ran with, specifically MS 13 early on, would immediately order him killed over such a tattoo because the ‘mark of the beast’ equaling 18 is unacceptable to that gang. It is unknown why El Cholo later left Mara 18. Possibly, a disagreement arose in his clique. In 2005, he joined the Braker gang and later engaged in ritual cannibalism in which he and other gang members ate the raw heart of a suicide victim he had ‘killed with death magic’ via a cemetery ritual with a voodoo doll. The victim “…sacrificed herself on her own. She cut her own veins with a machete” because she had been satanically compelled by El Cholo to do so. As part of the devil’s pact, El Cholo and his fellow gang members had to eat her heart or would face demonic retribution for themselves or their families.[12]      

Not surprisingly, the overall pattern taking place with Mexican cartel sicarios[13] and Central American MS 13[14] hitmen—as well as the killers of other lesser gangs such as the Brakers mentioned above and La Unión Tepito in Mexico City[15]—is one of  increasing incidences of Santa Muerte worship. While this research note is only exploratory, and by no means definitive, it is clear that extreme elements of such dark spirituality manifesting itself as similar ‘Death Cult worship’ has also become entrenched with some Barrio 18 street assassins and quite likely some of their larger cliques in the Northern Triangle of Central America.[16] Consequently, additional exploration of these potentials is now required by 3GEN Gangs scholars and security professionals as well as by more traditionally focused academics investigating Santa Muerte derived forms of spirituality and narcocultos (narco-cults) phenomena.    

Sources

“18 street gang.” xv3dc818. YouTube, 7:43 Minute Video. 13 February 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hACl23FySiE.

“Triple 666 18st XV3 Gang Big boy 2010.” sergio18st. YouTube, 2:29 Minute Video. 6 June 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bzu9mTvhZk.

“XV3 18ST King Lil G 2005.” sergio18st. YouTube, 4:40 Minute Video. 7 Feb 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9qt_lUrpwY.

Pandilleros actúan inspirados por ritos satánicos.” Diario1.Com. 26 February 2014, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2014/02/los-ritos-satanicos-de-las-pandillas/.

“Barrio 18 aliados de la Santa Muerte .'.” Facebook. 26 December 2015-4 January 2018, https://www.facebook.com/Barrio-18-aliados-de-la-Santa-Muerte--944492052300964/.

“Allanan guarida del Barrio 18 y encuentran altar a la Santa Muerte.” TN23. YouTube. 15 November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npkmIiRpuzA.

Esvin Lopez, “Detenidos 2 supuestos pandilleros que tenían altar a la Santa Muerte.” Publinews. 26 February 2017, https://www.publinews.gt/gt/noticias/2017/02/26/detenidos-2-supuestos-pandilleros-tenian-altar-santa-muerte.html.

“Localizan un aterrador altar a la santa Muerte durante allanamientos.” Soy 502. 27 February 2017, https://www.soy502.com/articulo/localizan-terrorifico-altar-muerte-durante-allanamiento-50172.

“Investigan si ‘Pandilla 18’ estaría detrás de sacrificio de mujer.” La Tribuna. 9 May 2018, https://www.latribuna.hn/2018/05/09/investigan-pandilla-18-estaria-detras-sacrificio-mujer/.

Julio Hernandez, “Preliminar: Localizan armas de fuego durante operativo contra integrantes de pandillas.” Radio TGW. 26 September 2019, https://radiotgw.gob.gt/preliminar-localizan-armas-de-fuego-durante-operativo-contra-integrantes-de-pandillas/.

End Notes

[1] Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 8: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Links to Occult Rituals and Santa Muerte Veneration or Worship.” Small Wars Journal. 19 January 2018, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-number-eight.

[2] For additional reporting on the incident, see “DPI busca tumbas clandestinas en la ‘casona endemoniada.’” La Tribuna. 10 May 2018, https://www.latribuna.hn/2018/05/10/dpi-busca-tumbas-clandestinas-la-casona-endemoniada/.

[3] Given the penetration of Santa Muerte veneration and worship into Sureños gang and Mexican cartel cultures, this is surprising. The assumption is some 18th Street members within the United States are likely venerating Santa Muerte but no visual social media proof presently exists to confirm such suspicions.   

[4] For instance, see Andrew Kragie, “New details in alleged MS-13 ‘satanic’ killing of teen girl in Houston.” San Francisco Chronicle. 3 March 2017, https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/missing-houston-girl-MS13-satanic-slaying-10974525.php?ipid=artem, Jacob Dirnhuber, “SATANIC MURDER: MS-13 gang stab victim 100 times, behead him and cut out his heart in savage Satanic killing in Washington DC park.” The Sun. 23 November 2017, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4980153/m-13-gang-beheading-satanic-killing-washington-dc-park/, and Lucia I. Suarez Sang, “MS-13 gang member sentenced to 40 years in ‘demonic’ killing.” Fox News. 9 February 2018, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ms-13-gang-member-sentenced-to-40-years-in-demonic-killing,

 [5] “Allanan guarida del Barrio 18 y encuentran altar a la Santa Muerte.” TN23. YouTube. 15 November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npkmIiRpuzA.

[6] “Localizan un aterrador altar a la santa Muerte durante allanamientos.” Soy 502. 27 February 2017, https://www.soy502.com/articulo/localizan-terrorifico-altar-muerte-durante-allanamiento-50172.

[7] Julio Hernandez, “Preliminar: Localizan armas de fuego durante operativo contra integrantes de pandillas.” Radio TGW. 26 September 2019, https://radiotgw.gob.gt/preliminar-localizan-armas-de-fuego-durante-operativo-contra-integrantes-de-pandillas/.

[8] As an example see the incident earlier mentioned in this article “Investigan si ‘Pandilla 18’ estaría detrás de sacrificio de mujer.” La Tribuna. 9 May 2018 in the key information section. For what appears to be crime scene images of this ritual killing see Luis Hernandez, “¡ATERRADOR! Las pandillas podrían estar detrás del ‘Ritual Satánico.’” Once Noticias. 9 May 2018, https://www.oncenoticias.hn/las-pandillas-podrian-estar-detras-del-sacrificio-satanico/ and “#45TVinforma -- HONDUREÑA ES SACRIFICADA EN RITO SATÁNICO.” Facebook. 7 May 2018, https://www.facebook.com/45tvhn/posts/1949543278424381/.

[9] Pandilleros actúan inspirados por ritos satánicos.” Diario1.Com. 26 February 2014, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2014/02/los-ritos-satanicos-de-las-pandillas/.

[10] In English: “He tells me and he rolls up his jeans and shows me the tattoos on his left leg. Among other typical symbols of the Barrio 18 sealed with permanent ink, there is a skull with a black cloak and a scythe…  He explains that it is the only thing that the gang believes, in addition to the gang itself: Santa Muerte, that popular figure of Mexican origin who personifies death and is worshiped by some and branded as diabolical by others.” Leire Ventas, “‘Piensan que somos más débiles, pero matar, matamos igual’: el peligroso doble papel de las mujeres en las pandillas de Centroamérica.”  BBC Mundo. 12 December 2017, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-42239755.

[11] John Burnett, “Former Gang Member ‘El Cholo’ Speaks Out.” NPR.  22 December 2008, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98598356.

[12] Ibid.

[13] See the El Centro Field Note series. These include Teun Voeten and Maaike Engels, “El Centro Field Note No. 1: Ciudad Juárez Prison Interview - Sicario Human Sacrifice to Santa Muerte.” Small Wars Journal. 20 October 2018,  https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/el-centro-field-note-no-1-ciudad-juarez-prison-interview-sicario-human-sacrifice-santa and Falko Ernst, El Centro Field Note No. 5: Grillo “The Cricket”—a Santa Muerte Adherent & Sicario for Multiple Cartels.” Small Wars Journal. 13 November 2018, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/el-centro-field-note-no-5-grillo-cricket-santa-muerte-adherent-sicario-multiple-cartels. See also, John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 23: Prison Riot and Massacre in Acapulco, Guerrero; Attack Allegedly During Santa Muerte Ritual.” Small Wars Journal.  20 July 2017, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-strategic-note-no-23-prison-riot-and-massacre-in-acapulco-guerrero-attack-al.

[14] See, for instance, Robert J. Bunker, “SWJ El Centro Book Review – The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman.” Small Wars Journal. 7 April 2020, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/swj-el-centro-book-review-hollywood-kid-violent-life-and-violent-death-ms-13-hitman.

[15] La Unión Tepito is a drug gang with more of a syncretic spiritual tradition blending “Regla de Ocha (Santeria), Las Reglas de Kongo (Palo Mayombe and traditions), Espiritismo, Folk saint worship and European esoteric traditions”—though a Santa Muerte statute was also evident on a shrine found in a safe house raid as well as an altar containing dozens of human skulls. See Tony A. Kail, “Appropriating Religious Traditions among ‘el Cártel de la Unión Tepito’: Dozens of Human Skulls Found at Narco Shrine in Mexico City.” Small Wars Journal. 7 November 2019, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/appropriating-religious-traditions-among-el-cartel-de-la-union-tepito-dozens-human-skulls.

[16] Further, how this is differentiated between the Sureños and Revolucionarios factions of Barrio 18 is another unknown.

For Additional Reading

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 18: MS-13 Indictments Document Barbarization and Ritual Murders In Los Angeles.” Small Wars Journal, 23 July 2019.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 8: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Links to Occult Rituals and Santa Muerte Veneration or Worship.” Small Wars Journal, 19 January 2018.

Robert J. Bunker, “Santa Muerte: Inspired and Ritualistic Killings.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 5 February 2013.

Robert J. Bunker, “SWJ El Centro Book Review – The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman.” Small Wars Journal, 7 April 2020.

 

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Angelo Thomas is in the International Baccalaureate program at Claremont High School. He is President of the Model United Nations club, and a Reagan Great Communicator Debate national Qualifier. He is a captain of the Speech and Debate team, and has placed in the top 8 at the National Debate Tournament. Past travels include England, France, and Italy. His El Centro research focus is on third generation gangs with an emphasis on 18th Street (Barrio 18) activities in the United States and Central America. He will be attending Claremont McKenna College in the fall of 2020.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an adjunct research professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. He has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com .