Secret Code Words Of Drug Cartels 

Jacob Shelton
Updated October 29, 2018 5.1k views 12 items

Drug cartels, purveyors of illicit substances, have a series of codes that they use in order to get around the law. While many of the code words are in Spanish, they essentially take on a language of their own thanks to the oblique nature of their use. Many of the cartel codes have to do with drugs, but they have just as many that concern guns, death, and when and where they’ll be doing business on a specific day. 

Thanks to drug enforcement agencies, the internet, and shows like Narcos, cartel slang is becoming more well known. The inherently illicit nature of cartel culture means the slang words have to keep evolving so members stay one step ahead of everyone else.


Cartel members and drug users in Mexico often call joints "churros." In everyday speak, a churro is a fried dough treat dipped in cinnamon sugar; the slang comes from a joint's shape.


Those hoping to buy drugs need to look for the "plaza." It's a public space that specifically houses the drug marketplace.

Reportedly, Mexican cartels routinely fight over plazas because the dealers with the most square footage can make the most money.


In the cartel world, gang members may worry about being taken by rivals. People who perpetrate these actions typically want ransoms, but a "levanton" is a kidnapping that results in the victim simply disappearing, and often ending up tortured and killed.


The LA Times reports "fusilados" is Spanish for "rifle," but the term references someone who's going to be shot in the head.