The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation is the oldest and largest Hispanic and Latino street gang worldwide. Milan and Rome now have an active Latin-American gang community, where the group’s original raison d’être ‘fighting prejudice against Hispanics’, still holds true. Ecuador is one of the countries that holds strong influence and has the highest number of members in the Latin Kings. Starting in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s several families from South America including Ecuador emigrated to Spain and Italy in the search of a better life and with them followed gangs like the Latin Kings that started to form their groups on European soil. Studies have shown the latin Kings in Italy have shown propensity to a lower use of violence compared to other similar groups, usually keeping violence to between single gang members. They have political goals, associated with fighting against racism and oppression, as their members desire equal rights and an increase to social mobility. Members cite human rights abuses against other migrants and seek what they deem to be a better life for those of migrant origin. Religion is also an important part of their society, and some of the topics discussed include teaching respect and love for gang members as well as telling them to study their literature and follow the steps that can lead them to be not only successful leaders within the gang, but also outside as members of the community. The tattoo art on their bodies can represent their individual life story within the gang life. Hip Hop and reggaeton music have always been a big influence for teenagers in Latin America, and gang violence and money play heavily in the lyrics that reggaeton singers put out, showing a life of excess that inspires local youth to join gangs or think that a criminal life would lead them to success. Gang members see their organization as a way for individuals who face exclusion in their host country, to come together as a brotherhood in what they deem their Latin King ‘Nation’.
ZUMA Press Launches this week: “Latin King Nation: BLOODLINES”. Photography by © Nicolas Enriquez.