The Latin Kings are the oldest, largest and most organized Hispanic Street Gang, which has its roots dating back to the 1940s in Chicago, Illinois. Latin King documents reveal a man by the name "Gino Gustavo Colon" (a.k.a. Lord Gino) is considered the "SUN" of the Almighty Latin King Nation in Chicago and has been for a long time. Latin King headquarters is located on Beach and Spaulding in Northwest Chicago. Luis Felipe created his version of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation "manifesto" based on teachings he had picked up from his time in Chicago, the "motherland." Felipe designated himself as Inca and Supreme Crown. In 1995 Antonio Fernandez was designated Inca and Supreme Crown of New York State and New Jersey, and the ALKQN once again began a transformation.
The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN, ALKN, LKN) is the largest Hispanic street gang in Chicago and the largest "Chicago-based" street gang in the United States. The ALKN has nearly thirty thousand members in the city of Chicago, with another ten to fifteen thousand members in the surrounding suburbs--with organized chapters of Latin Kings in over 38 states.
The Almighty Latin King Nation first emerged in Chicago during the 1940s when several young Puerto Rican males organized into a club. Their goal was to help each other overcome the problems of racism and prejudice that newly arriving Puerto Rican immigrants were experiencing. Although the original members were of Puerto Rican descent, most members are now Mexican-American. Besides these two groups, they are now mostly composed of Dominican, Cuban, Mexican, Central and South American members; and some African American, Asian and Middle Eastern members as well. As time progressed, the group's members became involved in violent crimes including murder, drug trafficking and robberies. Members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation vowed to lay down their lives for their "Nation". Unfortunately this also meant extreme internal discipline and organized fear.
Soon the Latin Kings rose to be the most feared gang in the Illinois Department of Corrections--to the administration and inmate population alike. In 2000 there were approximately 1600 self-admitted Latin Kings in the Illinois prison system, and these accounted for over half of all the recorded violent acts on prison personnel and other inmates, making the ALKN the most violent prison gang in Illinois (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fiscal Report, 2000). A couple examples of the Latin Kings' "ruthlessness" are the stories of Carlos Robles and officer Lawrence Kush.
In 1981, the leader of Chicago's southside chapter, one Raul Gonzalez (AKA "Baby King") of the Latin Kings had a "run in" with a member of the northside chapter of the Latin Kings. What happened was that the leader "Baby King" was basically "disrespected" by an inmate known as Carlos Robles. Because Robles was basically in the same gang, just in a different geographical unit, Baby King approach the leader of the northside chapter of the LKN, Gino Colon, and got his "blessing" to change Carlos Robles permanently before he is released. About two years later, when he was in the Illinois State Penitentiary, inmate Robles would get his "violation" for disrespecting the southside leader of the ALKN. Two of the members of the southside LKN chapter were chosen for the "hit". Robles was to be murdered. These were two gang members who were heavy PCP users.
The way the "hit" was carried out was quite clever. The two men intending to kill Carlos, basically told him they were throwing him a "going away party". Robles was scheduled to be paroled in two days when the hit took place in July, 1983. As is common in corrupting correctional staff, the two hitmen got permission from the cellhouse guard to use the basement for the going away party. The basement of the cellhouse unit has the showers the inmates use. Carlos entered the basement of the cellhouse with the two men for his "parole party". They proceeded to use their homemade weapons. Not little "shanks" as homemade knifes are called, but rather the much larger machetes, usually about two feet long and made out of heavy gauge steel. First they cut off Carlos' head. Then one arm, then the other arm. With a little hacking, off went one leg, then the other. They chopped at the torso, cutting it into smaller pieces. The head was the only body part that could not be sliced up into smaller pieces. The arms and legs were then chopped into smaller pieces. Blood was everywhere. But all the two whackos did was turn on the showers and let the blood run down the drain. Basically washing off the body parts.
Members of their own gang, cooperating upstairs in the cell house, helped next. As the two whackos placed the body parts into plastic bags, a "diversion" fight was staged. This allowed the two whackos to go through the tunnel which led to what was then the butcher shop area of the prisons kitchen. The Black inmate working in the butcher shop that day was a member of the Gangster Disciples, and as a "Folks" gang, is always opposed to Latin Kings (a "Peoples" gang). The two whackos asked him for a favor, for which they would reward him with some drugs and cash money. They asked him to "grind" up the body parts in the older meat grinder that was there, a very large commercial grade meat grinder. On the menu for the evening meal that night at Stateville Penitentiary was "meat loaf". The GD in charge of the butcher shop, once offered the drugs and money to grind up the body parts, simply asked "who is in the bag". The two whacko's replied "he is one of our own", not one of yours. The GD agreed, and ground up the body parts with the pork and beef that was also going into the meat loaf for the evening meal. Shortly before the bells rung for the inmates to go to evening chow in the inmate dining room, two gangs already had much advance warning about what not to eat that night. The GD's and the Latin Kings spread the word amongst themselves: don't eat on the main line tonight. In the dining hall that night, only the gangs that did not know the real recipe for the meatloaf ate their food. Some inmate chow hounds were pleasantly surprised to find so many friendly Latin Kings and GD's offering their entre for the evening meal to other hungry inmates.
No traces of the skin, bones, teeth, or blood of Carlos Robles were ever found. That is for years. The skull bone apparently simply "rolled around" in the meat grinder like a basketball spinning on a net rim, and thus it had to be buried. The skull was dug up in 1995 in the yard at Stateville (see: "Skull Dug up in Stateville Prison", Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1995, p. 2).
And on July 1, 1989 a correctional officer at the Stateville Correctional Center, Lawrence Kush, Jr., was assassinated by the Latin Kings while on the job. Attacked from behind with pipes and other weapons, Kush would die a day later, but was one of 30 officers on a "hit list" prepared by the Latin Kings (see: Jerry Thomas, "Gangs a Rising Threat to Prison Guards", Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1993). Why did the Latin Kings target correctional officers? Clearly, all evidence points to one thing: the officers were doing their job, and that meant they were a threat to the inside drug business of the Latin Kings. This incident and many others sent chills up everyone's spine as a forewarning to avoid any conflict or confrontation with the Latin Kings.
The gang has organized chapters in numerous states across the country. These gang sets are referred as to as "Chapters", with each reporting to an Inca and Caciqa. The head (or heads) of the entire criminal organization are known as "Coronas". One of the characteristics that sets the Latin Kings apart from other gangs is they consider themselves to be a community-based organization. Because of their apparent contradictions, it is often debated about whether they are a criminal organization or a positive force in the community (as they have obviously taken on both roles at different points in time, as well as simultaneously).
They preach Hispanic pride and all Latin Kings are encouraged to live in accordance with the principles of KINGISM (a moral driven awareness of social oppression and the desire to uplift their people to their rightful place: "amongst the thrones of Kings and Queens"). The Latin Kings operate under strict rules and guidelines that are conveyed in a lengthy constitution and follow the teachings of the ALKQN Manifesto which was written by highly intellectual Latin Kings (these documents are referred to as the "King Manifesto/Constitution" or "KM/C" for short). In this manifesto you can find traces of Marxism, Christianity and other revolutionary/historical world-views which when combined make up the ideology and morality of "KINGISM"--which are centered around the upliftment of the poor (the "Oppressed Third World People") and the struggle against the oppressive social, political and economic existing order of things.
To begin their meetings, members may face the East (which is where the Sun rises) and recite one of the various Latin King prayers to Yahve (The Almighty Father and King of Kings)and pledge to be ever faithful to the Nation. These meetings are also used by members to discuss recent events, dues, retaliation, position responsibilities and elections etc... When compared to most street gangs, the Latin Kings are generally more structured and organized. The gang's rules are strictly enforced and some members celebrate January 6th as "King's Holy Day" and the first week in March as "King's Week."
To avoid imprisonment for his criminal activities in Chicago Luis Felipe moved to New York, where he was later convicted of killing his girlfriend, which he claimed was a drunken accident. While in jail, he started the New York chapter of the Latin Kings which grew rapidly. Using hand written letters he gave members orders to kill enemies, as well as other Latin Kings, in order to preserve discipline. Felipe's gang was highly organized.
In 1991 Felipe was returned to prison after a short release for parole violations stemming from the receipt of stolen goods. Felipe would continue however to guide the ALKQN members who now totaled about 2000 members both incarcerated and free. In 1994 with the rapid growth of the Latin Kings, an internal power struggle erupted and violence within the Kings ensued. Between June 1993 and February 1994, seven Latin Kings were murdered. Following the outbreaks of internal gang violence Luis Felipe and 19 others were charged with murder and racketeering, the indictments would end in 1995 with 39 Latin Kings and 1 Latin Queen indicted under the RICO Act.
The details of the charges against Felipe would later become known. Felipe was charged with ordering the killing of William (Lil Man) Cartegena. Cartegena was taken to an abandoned Bronx apartment where he was strangled, decapitated, mutilated and his corpse set on fire. The murder allegedly due to Cartegenas failure to kill enemies quick enough, as well as theft from the organization.
For the ALKQN, 1997 begins with Felipe being sentenced to the harshest penalty passed down since World War 2, Felipe is sentenced to 250 years in prison, the first 45 to be spent in solitary confinement. The other 39 members were sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison for their roles in the crimes. The year would bring further legal troubles as Fernandez and 31 others are arrested in a raid in the Lower East Side and charged with disorderly conduct. The Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools soon after charges the ALKQN with infiltrating the school system, a school security guard with five years of service is dismissed on charges of unprofessional conduct for his association. The year comes to a close with King Tone being arrested in December by the FBI for domestic abuse.
The pending charges against Fernandez were dropped in early 1998. Following the release of Fernandez, a joint operation of the FBI, New York City Police Department (NYPD), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), New York State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) comes to a close with the arrests of 92 suspected ALKQN members. The Latin King leadership insists over half of those arrested are not members. The operation, dubbed Operation Crown, cost the city over one million dollars and took 19 months to complete. Fernandez was released after four days on $350,000 bail, which was paid for by contributions from community members. Over half of the arrested were charged with misdemeanors, other were charged with weapons possession and drug dealing. Fernandez was eventually permitted, though on house arrest, to attend monthly universal meetings. It was during his time on house arrest that the Latin Queens underwent a shake up in leadership, dismissing many of the leaders in order to bring in more politically focused members.
The Latin Kings during this period begin to gain legitimacy. First, Lolita Lebrón, the Puerto Rican terrorist who was a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist, appointed the ALKQN to protect her during a demonstration in front of the United Nations. Following the UN demonstration, Rafael Cancel-Miranda, a Puerto Rican nacionalista who spent 25 years in federal prison, attended a monthly universal. Before years' end, Adelfa Vera, Puerto Rican activist, attended a monthly universal and was given sacred ALKQN beads by the present leadership. Adelfa was praised during the meeting and stated "These kids are hope for our liberation struggle. I can die in peace, because we found the continuation"
In 1995 Fernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell and distribute heroin. In 1996 he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, which he is serving at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and was placed in solitary confinement. He was eventually transferred again and placed in general population.
The Latin Queen agenda is composed of self-respect, independence, family support, ethnic identity and self-empowerment. Seeking such goals has attracted a wide variety of females who had been drug addicted, victimized and or neglected by families, spouses and partners. Sociologists studying the Latin Kings and Queens have observed the different methods in which both groups attempt to "reclaim and regulate" their environments. The Latin Queens are believed to focus more on their private space issues such as home life and protection and nurturing of their bodies, as opposed to the Latin Kings, who are more concerned with loss of public spaces in their own communities.
The evolution of the ALKQN has been viewed by outside sources as being assisted by the addition and greater role in which Latin Queens have played, exposing the ALKQN to a greater range of cross-class supporters than would have been possible prior to their integration. In regions such as Spain, Latin Queens are helping to legitimize the ALKQN through integration with government sponsored programs. In Catalonia, the 200 person Latin Kings and Queens tribe was designated as the Cultural Association of Latin Kings and Queens of Catalonia. The "cultural program" designation was bestowed through government sponsored programs to assist gangs with integration into society and is lead by Latin Queen Melody, Erika Jaramillo.