Barrio Azteca



The Barrio Azteca was founded in 1986 by Texas prison offenders Benito “Benny” Acosta, Alberto “Indio” Estrada, Benjamín “T-Top” Olivarez, Manuel “Tolon” Cardoza, Manuel “El Grande” Fernandez, Raúl “Rabillo” Fierro and José “Gitano” Ledesma. The prison gang first began after it’s founders, many who were from El Paso, Texas, decided to unite El Paso and Juarez Mexico prisoners as a line of protection against other Hispanic prison gangs. Older established prison gangs such as the Mexikanemi (Texas Mexican Mafia) and the Texas Syndicate were caught up in a deadly gang war, which allowed the Barrio Azteca to grow right under their noses. The Barrio Azteca, knowing that it would eventually have to earn the respect of the powerful Mexikanemi and dangerous Texas Syndicate, began recruiting hundreds of new violent inmates, many who were arriving to prison for gang related crimes in the west Texas, northern Mexico borderland.

By 1996, the Barrio Azteca had grown to become the most powerful criminal enterprise of the Texas southwest, northern Mexico and southern New Mexico. The Barrio Azteca’s primary goal was to regulate the narcotics trade of the El Paso, Texas and Juarez Mexico area. The gang began imposing a 5-10% “tax” fee or “quota” to non-affiliated drug dealers, and would eventually form an alliance with the Juarez drug cartel. This powerful alliance would promote the level of the Barrio Azteca and would surprise both law enforcement officials and rival prison gangs. Never had a relatively unsophisticated prison gang morphed into what would become a well financed drug-gang that enforces it’s control by kicking down doors, kidnapping, butchering and beheading it’s rivals. This prison gang/drug cartel alliance would give birth to narcoterrorism, a new and difficult challenge for law encforement agencies in both Mexico and the United States.

How a dangerous Texas based prison gang could spill into Mexico and ruin Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million is a question many ask. The answer is actually quite simple. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons were left with no other option but to deport thousands of paroled undocumented offenders into Juarez Mexico after serving their prison sentence. State and U.S. federal law mandates that all Mexican born nationals who commit serious crimes in the United States be deported back to Mexico instead of paroled on U.S. soil. Under these circumstances the Barrio Azteca were able to bridge into Mexico and thrive in chaos.

The foundation of the Barrio Azteca would eventually be shaken in 2006 by law enforement officials. The dangerous international prison gang had become the #1 target of the FBI who with the help of the El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriffs Department, Texas Department of Public Saftey and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice began gathering intellegence and preparing to charge it’s gang leaders under RICO (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).

Outside criminal organizations who cross “The Line” by conducting any form drug transaction without the approval of La Linea are eliminated by Barrio Azteca hit-squads commissioned by the Juarez cartel. Drug traffickers belonging to the Juarez drug cartel take advantage of the “cheap labor” offered by newly imported Barrio Azteca ex-convicts desperate for work.

Today the Barrio Azteca and Juarez drug cartel partnership, aka “La Línea” or “The Line”, are locked in a blood war with the Sinaloa drug cartel and other gangs. Sources in law enforcement state that “The Sinaloa drug cartel is gradually gaining control of the northern Mexican region once dominated by the Juarez drug cartel and Barrio Azteca.”


Symbols: 915, EPT, 21, BA, Azteca theme tattoos.
Ranking structure: Paramilitary
Territory: El Paso TX, Ciudad Juarez, Midland TX, Odessa TX, Las Cruces New Mexico, and small chapters across the United States and northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.
Alliances: Juarez cartel
Members: 12,000
Racial make up: Hispanic
Threat: High


The Barrio Azteca follows a paramilitary chain of command of Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants and soldiers. The gang is well structured and has as many as 12,000 members in both Mexico and the United States. The Barrio Azteca requires its members remain loyal to the organization for life. Quitting the gang is prohibited and the consequences of leaving the organization is death. Approved membership in the Barrio Azteca requires that a prospect carry out a “camello” or hit for the gang inside prison or after release from prison. Prospects must first serve 2 years of supporting the gang in prison before being “blessed”, or “awarded sandals”, the new member is issued a number written in code and added to the gang roster. Barrio Azteca leaders are able to verify the identification of each of its members by their encrypted roster. Deciphering gang rosters is difficult for TDCJ gang intelligence officers and Law enforcement officials since codes are regulary changed by gang leaders. The deadly gang has chapters in cities across Texas and has succeeded in recruiting members from California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.


Capo Mayor (captain major): The gang leader. A captain major is the veteran gang member who is voted in by the gangs selected Capos.
Capos (captains): Gang leaders in charge of maintaining gang roster and issue orders to lieutenants and sergeants.
Lieutenants: Command sergeants and maintain discipline.
Sargentos (sergeants): Collect taxes, recruit and enforce gang discipline.
Soldados or carnales: Foot soldiers. Distribute drugs and carry out gang missions.
Prospectos: Prospective gang members distribute drugs and carry out missions.
Esquinas: Associates back up the gang and conduct business with the gang.


Following their emergence into the prison gang scene, both the Texas Syndicate and Mexikanemi (Mexican Mafia of Texas) refused to recognize the Barrio Azteca gang and declared war with the gang. The out numbered Azteca gang struggled in prison due to their numerous enemies but some how managed to murder several members of the Texas Syndicate in prisons and jails all over the state of Texas. Barrio Azteca earned the respect of the Texas Syndicate and Mexican Mafia and a peace treaty was signed on July of 1997. The Azteca’s have multiplied and now out number the Texas Syndicate. The highly organized prison gang currently operates in both state and federal prisons all over the United States and Mexico. The FBI recently classified the Barrio Azteca as a national security threat after a wave of drug related violence in Juarez Mexico involving the gang. This criminal organization is responsible for dozens of murders in Texas and Mexican prisons. The Azteca’s hit media head lines on December 2003 after the gang murdered six rival gang members of the PRM prison gang in the Cereso prison in Mexico and 8 more on February 2004.


The criminal organization once focused in black tar heroin distribution, but recently partnered with the Juarez cartel in 2001. Together both gangs control the import of narcotics and export of fire arms. The Juarez cartel supplies the prison gang with drugs, fire arms and Mexican police protection, and in return the Aztecas traffic and distribute the cartels narcotics, as well as provide security and murder for hire. The Barrio Azteca use female heroin addicts to smuggle narcotics through their body cavities.