The Nuestra Familia (Our Family) was organized by Robert "Babo" Sosa in the Folsom (California) State Prison in 1968. Sosa and his associates were tired of the abuse and victimization at the hand of the Mexican Mafia. Most of the original members of the NF were from Northern California. As the NF and Mexican Mafia engaged in a bitter prison war, new prisoners from Northern California were recruited into the NF while Southern California inmates joined the Mexican Mafia. By the late 1970s, after numerous prison riots and murders, an official dividing point emerged between the gangs in Delano, California, near Bakersfield. Those living North of this location were known as Nortenos (Northern in Spanish.) The Nuestra Familia was the first prison gang to ever be federally indicted for violation of the R. I. C. O. act in the early 1980s. The gang has a written constitution, rules (known as the 14-bonds) and an organized leadership structure. Nearly all California Hispanic gangs identify themselves as being Nortenos or Surenos, an indication as to who they will join when they go to prison.
Norteno street gang members often identify with the symbols XIV, X4, 14, and 4-dots. Fourteen refers to the 14th letter of the alphabet "N" which stands for Norteno or the Nuestra Familia. The gang associates with the color red and the words Norteno, Norte and Northerner. Other symbols include a 5-pointed star, symbolizing the "North" star and the Huegla bird, the symbol used by the United Farm Workers association--these two tattoos (star & bird) must be earned through committing an assault or murder on their enemies, the Surenos.
The Nuestra Familia has a large chain of command that oversees every Norteno gang in Northern California. Nortenos have been identified in nearly every state in the country as well as several European countries.
At the direction of the Nuestra Familia, a pro-Norteno gangster rap group complied two music CDs entitles "GUN (Generation of United Norteno)" and "Quete" (Meaning gun in Spanish. The CDs were effectively distributed to Norteno street gang members. According to federal authorities, the NF's purpose of the CDs was to raise money for the gang and to promote unity among individual Norteno street gangs. Nortenos continue to be heavily involved in drug sales, and murders. They remain bitter enemies of the Mexican Mafia prison gang and Sureno street gangs.