The History of the Latin Kings begins in the 1920s or 1930s, but at this time they were known under a different name. In the beginning of the 20th century a lot of Puerto Rican immigrants came to New York. A lot of groups were formed, such as “Noble Knights” (who have ties to today’s Latin Kings) or “Young Lords”. The group still has connections to these gangs. The founder of the original Latin Kings is called “Papa King” or “Papa Santos”. He started the gang in the 1950s in Chicago. Although he is an important person in the history of Latin Kings you don’t know much about him or his life. Even his birthday is unknown. He himself was a “Young Lord”. Due to oral stories the LK were formed on the Southside of Chicago on the corner of 18th and Wabash. During the 60s they became more and more successful and expended to the north. They grew faster and were the best organized gang these days.
The Latin Kings worked with social workers, because they received government benefits from meeting them. That’s why they acted more and more bad to get more and more benefits, such as money, fun activities, etc. Today this system doesn’t exist anymore, of course.
Some gangs thought the LK were part of the “Royal Kings”, who had arguments with the so called “Ambrose”. As a consequence the Latin Kings and Ambrose became enemies.
In the 1970 the LKs were often connected with major crimes and organized criminal activities. 1977/78 they were suspected for robbing an armory. The FBI arrested one member, who acknowledged that they had stolen military weapons. It was rumored that they sold them to different allied gangs. In the 1980s the LK convinced also white gangs to join the so called “people alliance”, formed with “Vice Lords” and “Elrukns”.
In 1888 “Papa King” was killed. His followers were “Lord Gino” (of whom you say that he ordered Papa Kind’s death) as the leader of the LKN in prison and “Baby king” as leader on the streets.
Size and Ethnic Origin
Since the 1990s they’re also spread in New York City and nowadays you can find them nearly everywhere in the US. The Latin Kings and Queens Nation is primary spread in Illinois, Texas, and Florida and of course in New York and Chicago. Although they have many allies they are still the third largest gang in Chicago and people say that it is the biggest and most influential Latino gang in the world. Experts guess that there are about 50.00 to 80.000 members world wide, but you’ll never find out the exact number. They often have Puerto Rican background, but during the last 20 years when they broadened to Europe, there became more and more people with also Hispanic, Portuguese or Italian background members. As in many gangs there are more male members than female.
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Structure and Organization
Both, men and women, are allowed to become a member at the Latin Kings and Queens Nation has, as the name already says. They have a strict hierarchy and rules. It has always been important that the members have social responsibilities. Depending on their age they should have or search for a job or go to school. Education in general is quite important to the Nation. That’s why there are so called “schoolings”. Knowledge workers are people whose jobs focus on working with information and for whom a certain theoretical and analytical knowledge is important. Knowledge “is not tied to any country – it is portable” and represents might, a typical LK ambition.
They should also be interested in their ethnic background and family history and free or hard drugs to be able to mainly concentrate on their duties in the nation and not to drag down the other members. There are three stages of social responsibilities a member goes threw when he decides to be a Latin King:
Primitive Stage: the King warrior acts very impulsive. Most of his time he does gang banging (engaging gang activities) or getting high.
The Conservative or “Mummy” Stage: The member doesn’t want to be on the streets and gets tired of being seen as big and bad. He gets married and retires.
The New King Stage: The member sees himself as a “new King”, which means that he starts to recognize that the time of revolution is in his hand. When he becomes a new King the will of the Nation becomes his will. Everything starts to have a meaning to him and he only lives for the nation.
They are well structured and known for their hierarchy. The leadership consists for example out of:
- Supreme Crown Authorities
- Executive Crown Authorities and
- Local Presidents in their respective prisons and communities. They are responsible for a particular area.
Furthermore there are “officers” or leaders, the so called Incas that are each supported by a Crown Council of seven members. The gang’s head is the so called “Corona” which means “Crown”. He is able to decide nearly everything, but is, of course, also responsible for every activity outside prison. At that time Gino Gustavo Colon is the leader of the Latin Kings.
Because of their strict hierarchy they need, as mentioned before, strict rules. There are ones for every part of their live. They are written in their “bible”, which is called the “King’s Manifesto”. For example they have rules how to communicate with other gang members.. A few official rules are:
“A brother never crosses his left over his right arm, he never covers his right hand, because it represents his crown. No member should take the law into his own hand, he isn’t allowed to exploit any person inside or outside the nation, when a member gives another member a salute it always has to be returned.”
That rules are often highly ritualistic.
Due to that the Latin Kings are very religious. They believe in Kingism, which includes their whole system. But they also believe in Yahweh, god, “the almighty father, King of all Kings”. He is also called the El of the Universe. A non religious LK you’ll find very rarely. The Nation says that also their name is an acronym and shows their devotion to Yahweh. “Almighty” stands for:
“A love measured in great harmony toward Yahweh”
In their Manifesto there are not only rules and regulations, but also prayers. There are 2 prayers in the beginning; one is called the holy prayer. They believe that Yahweh is the founder of the universe, of the Manifesto and the Kingism. This belief should give them faith in themselves. The Latin Kings say that there’s a heaven and a soul that will meet Yahweh after death. In fact it has a great similarity to the Christian and Jewish believe.
What Kingism exactly is does only a member of the Latin Kings and Queens Nation know. They have certain Kings, but if they are holy, imaginary persons or real historic figures, isn’t clear.
When a member does not stick to that rules he gets punished by his colleagues. Besides physical punishment it includes social exclusion and group harming. Their application varies in intensity and frequency whether it’s a Chicago or New Yorker Leader. They have a few different rules and their execution also depends on the leader. A non-physical punishment can be prohibition, which varies between 2 weeks and 2 month. Others can be fines, being isolated and so on and so forth. But, as everything in their lives, they also have strict rules for physical punishments. There are:
“three-minute physicals”, as the name already explains – three members punish for three minutes
“five-point violations”, which means that there are 5 members of the leadership that punish the victim (they stand for the 5 points of the crown) or even
T.O.S. It stands for Terminate on Sight and is a death penalty.
The reasons for this last brutal action are treason, challenging a leadership or sadly just homosexuality.
Symbols and Rituals
As every gang they have specific colors you find on all their logos and tattoos. In this case they are black and yellow. The dark color represents death and stands in opposite to the light one, which represents life. They aren’t only included in their symbols, but also on their cloth.
Their emblem is always five pointed, e.g. a star, a crown (sometimes worn by a lion) or anything else that shows this number. Their most recent emblem is the bulldog with a crown. You can say that the number “five” is “holy” to them, because they often use it in their philosophy.
The LKs are known for their drawings and graffiti paintings. They use symbols such as A.L.K.Q.N (Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation), A.L.K.Q.C.N (Charter Nation), A.D.R (Amor Deu Rei – Love the Kings), guns, Coat of arms, money or cars. They sign places with graffiti where a gang member has fallen. On the graffiti the deceased person’s ID-Number is shown, his/her name and the date of the death. If another gang is responsible for his/her death an upside down symbol of this gang is painted with the words “Lollypop” as a putdown for that gang.
A very important thing for them is to learn to control their tongue. They believe that speaking of the control of the tongue is addressing the whole body. That’s what they want to learn. For that reason it’s not easy for the police to uncover their criminal activities – they are faithful to their colleagues. Newspapers talk about special rituals to train themselves.
The LK’s are known for not just using but also selling weapons. High ranking members often wear bullet proof vests, because of their enemies. Every member owns a weapon and they do not always carry them with them when they are on post. It’s very hard to get information from them, because they are that faithful to their group. However, their primary source of income is dealing with drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
The internet is full of stories about Latin Kings and their criminal activities including burglary, homicide, identity theft and money laundering. Reportedly also the police are corrupted. In 2011 two policemen had arrested drug dealers for fake, took their drugs and gave their proceeds to the Latin Kings. Statistics of the Chicago Police say that they find about 150 kilograms cocaine and 1000 kilogram marijuana a year in the Latin Kings’ region.
Their Rival Gangs are the Latin Locos, Folk Nation gangs and the Solidos.
Originally there were no female members allowed. Nowadays women get an equal share. They constituted, in addition to the male Kings, a few Queens. They join the gang for self-respect, independence, family support, ethnic identity and self-empowerment. Still they fill in female stereotypical roles and stay at home, mainly running the household, while the male members are fighting on the streets or dealing with drugs. They have a home life of protection.
Reason for Becoming a Gang Member
As I’ve mentioned before a lot of women became members to feel safer. But still the Latin Kings and Queens Nation has more male members. They have a lot of influence in the world and the black market. That would be the main reason why people become members. In New York or Chicago they are common and young people are attracted by their philosophy and might. They often come from broken families and want to find a new one.
Besides this it’s you’ll have no choice weather you want to be a LK or not when your parents already join them. On the other hand these kids grew up with the ideology of Kingism. They do not know anything else. That’s why the Latin Kings grow that fast.
Due to this life in poverty seems to be a lot easier when you can relate on your gang and know that they’ll support you even in prison. And of course you always have access to drugs and weapons, what favors young people the most.
When I started searching for information about the “Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation” I thought they where just one out of thousand Latin American gangs. But when I researched more I found their philosophy really fascinating. Kingism is not a religion I would personally agree with but I found it strange that so many people follow that few leaders and that there is such a strict hierarchy although everybody’s talking about freedom. I wasn’t surprised about their criminal activities and the stories about street wars or corrupt policemen do not really shock me. I expected that.
Another think that was interesting is that although the LKs are so popular and even have their “leaders” in prison it is very hard to find out information about them. I had to concentrate on facts, but most of the sources are influenced by the gang itself, which forced me to read even more about them to stay subjective.
A Latin King’s Poem
“NOT A DAY GOES BY THAT WE DON’T REPRESENT
THROWING UP THE CROWN WITH ALL OUR LOVE
SHOUTING “AMOR DE REY” TILL’ WE DIE
TO THE ALMIGHTY FATHER UP ABOVE
BUSTING OUT IN OUR HOOD’S
KEEPING THE LOVE ALIVE
NEVER LETTING FLAKES DISRESPECT OUR EMBLEMS
THAT WE MADE WITH SO MUCH PRIDE
BUT AS ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING
WE ARE GETTING STRONGER AND STRONGER
EACH DAY WATCHING SHORTIES JOIN
AND OLDER BOYS RETIRE THEIR FLAG
BUT AS ONE KING DROP HIS FLAG
THERE IS A SHORTY TO PICK IT UP
AS THE OLDER BOYS PASS THAT FLAG
FROM AN OLD HAND TO A NEW ONE
HE WILL GIVE HIM SOME WISE ADVISE
“KEEP THIS FLAG IN YOUR HEART AND NEVER LET IT DIE”
“RESPECT AND HONOR THIS CROWN FOR IT I ONCE DID”
“DIE FOR THIS CROWN AS OTHER KINGS /QUEENS DID”
“EVER TAKE A BRO OR SIS NAME THAT DIED WITH RESPECT
NOT UNLESS YOU’RE WILLING TO DIE LIKE HE / SHE DID
LIKE A TRUE KING / QUEEN DIES IN THE BATTLE FIELD”
REMEMBER THOSE WHO DIED,
GO TO THEIR GRAVE AND SHED NO TEARS
BRING THEM SOME BIG ASS FLOWERS,
TELL THEM THAT THEY DIDN’T DIED IN VAIN!!!!
DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO DIED AND THOSE WHO PASSED
THE CROWN FROM AND TO HAND AND THOSE WHO STILL
KEEP THE LOVE ALIVE…”
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