Norteno gang members get tattoos that include the words norte, Norteno or the number 14, sometimes stylized as X4 or XIV. Some members get a tattoo of four dots. Nortenos also use images that relate to the Mexican-American labor movement, such as the sombrero, machete and Huelga bird.
The number 14 is used by Nortenos because "n" is the 14th letter of the alphabet. Red is the color worn by the Nortenos, and they wear the apparel of sports teams that feature red, such as the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bulls.
The Norteno gang was founded by Mexican-American prison inmates in 1968. It was created because of conflict between the Mexican Mafia and Mexican-Americans from Northern California. The inmates divided into Nortenos and Surenos (northerners and southerners). The Nortenos allied themselves with the Nuestra Family, while the Surenos allied themselves with the Mexican Mafia.
As of 2014, the gangs are still rivals, and their gang war is ongoing. Nortenos are most common in northern California, but they are active across the west coast, primarily in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Nortenos are predominantly Hispanic men, although there are people of other ethnicities who have allegiance to the gang. Some members of the gang are as young as 9 years old, while the oldest members are in their 50s.