Prison Tattoos and Their Secret Meanings
"La Eme" or, 'The M' is the symbol of the Mexican Mafia. The Mexican Mafia is one of the largest and most ruthless prison gangs in the US. They are allied with the Aryan Brotherhood gang, who have a common enemy in Nuestra Familia.
The Mexican Mafia is one of the most powerful gangs in the prison system, their activities extend to thousands of inmates. There are also lots of member and associates of La Eme outside the prison walls. Despite the name of 'Mexican Mafia', La Eme was not started in Mexico, but rather by Mexican-Americans incarcerated in American prisons. La Eme is a Sureño gang, belonging to a large affiliation of hispanic gangs in Southern California. There are many Sureño gangs, but when Sureños enter prison, they are generally all under the influence of the Mexican Mafia.
Anytime you see someone with a tattoo of 'MS13' or just 'MS' or '13', this represents the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador. The tattoos could be anywhere, but it's very common for MS-13 members to have identifying tattoos on highly visible areas like their face, neck, and/or hands.
La Mara Salvatrucha was started in the Los Angeles area by El Salvadoran immigrants. There are now MS-13 chapters all over the United States and even some in Canda. They have over 70,000 members and are known as one of the most brutal gangs in America. Their illegal industries range from dealing drugs to child prostitution. The US Treasury has even listed MS-13 as Transnational Criminal Organization! If you were wondering where they got their name, 'La Mara' is the name of a street in San Salvador and the Salvatrucha were an army of guerrilla fighters in the El Salvadoran civil war.
Playing cards or suits of the deck general indicate an inmate who likes to gamble. This applies to gambling games in prison as well as in the more general sense: someone who views life as a gamble.
In Russian prisons, each suit of the deck of cards has it's own meaning. The spade symbolizes a thief, while clubs symbolize criminals in general. The diamonds are reserved for stoolpigeons and informants, and this tattoo is usually applied by force. The heart symbol represents someone who is looking for a romantic partner in the prison. This is another one that may be forcibly applied.