“Outlaw Empires,” a documentary series about the notorious dynasties of renegades who came to inhabit our land, is created by Kurt Sutter, who brought fans “Sons of Anarchy.” Sutter explores the organized outlaw gangs indigenous to different parts of the United States and presents them to the viewers with his unique spin.
This episode gives insight into Nuestra Familia, the highly secretive “Outlaw Empire” born in the California prison system as a way for members to fend off violence from the Mexican mafia. It has risen to be one of the most lethal street gangs in the world.
Told by ex-member, Johnny Angel Martinez, he describes his release from prison and immediately reports to the gang who tells Martinez that his mother is turning state evidence and testifying against the gang. He agreed to go along with the gang’s decision to murder his mother, choosing one family against the other.
In the 1950s the prison in California was divided into three divisions: whites, blacks, and Latinos. The whites had the Aryan Brotherhood, the blacks had the Black Guerilla family and no organization and were victims of both whites and blacks, being beaten, raped and killed. In 1957, a group of Latinos, primarily from Los Angeles banded together to form the Mexican Mafia as told by the former member, Angel Botello. It was originally a noble organization, but they took advantage of the northern Latino inmate population and considered them lower class. The northerners then formed Nuestra Familia to protect them from the Mexican Mafia.
Martinez was raised in the gang by a mother who was a street-wise female, a heroin addict and supplier of drugs. By the age of 6, Johnny was her accomplice. He saw her stab people and when she went to prison he went with relatives or foster homes and each time begged them not to send him back to his mother, but he was sent back anyway. Soon he recognized the gang members as his family. They were all veterans of the prison system and his mother wanted most of all, her son to be a member. He hung out with an affiliated gang from his town of Salinas and became a member when they all initiated him by beating the heck out of him. When he showed them that he could handle himself, he was welcomed into the gang at 12 years of age and made his mother proud.
As the NF gang progressed, they adopted a military aspect and required members to be physically fit and ready for war. Johnny’s gang was recognized as a powerful street gang and recruited into the NF and found himself involved in the middle of a gang war with the MM. When one of the NF members shot a MM member in the head, it was the beginning of a war.
When Johnny forgot his jacket one day, he ran back into the hangout and as his friends waited outside, one was shot dead. It was the beginning of his allegiance to the teachings of NF, and a thirst for revenge. Guns and violence was a way of life. From the age of 12 and on, he robbed drug dealers and put a gun to their head and became a leader of his gang. When a notorious leader was released from prison, he took Johnny under his wing and then became his trusted companion. By 17 Johnny had risen through the ranks of NF and tasted prison life. His criminal activity sent him to a youth facility, where he learned more information about being a gang member and earning more stripes. In the youth facility he stabbed three inmates and earned three years in prison where he learned even more about being a member of NF. There he became schooled in the makings of a full-fledged family member. They learned sign language and how to be in the secret circle and remain under the radar. After his release, a parole violation sent him back and he was given the task of putting a hit on another inmate.
After he was released again was when he found out about his mother’s ratting on the NF. Now a son who made his mother proud by becoming a ranking gang member, was told to kill his mother. Johnny finally felt remorse for his actions and although back in jail, was no longer a member of NF. While in prison, his mother was killed execution-style in Soledad, California. Today the Nuestra Familia is still operating outside the prison system, but Johnny chose another path. Angel Botello is now serving time in an undisclosed California prison and neither a member of any “Outlaw Empires.”
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