Unspeakable Times

Cartel Tattoos And The Meanings Behind Them

Tattoos have long served as important badges of honor for criminal enterprises. By inking your body you are making a permanent commitment to your organization, signifying a blood oath - you are in this for life. While many gangs and criminal groups have employed the use of tattoos for decades, it's a relatively new phenomenon for the brutal Mexican drug cartels, and the pictures of these cartel tattoos show they're bigger and badder than ever.

The reason groups like the Zetas and the Sinaloa are now marking their members is an economic one. By covering their employees in facial and other highly visible tattoos, they are effectively making them unhirable anywhere else, and in turn, dependent on their organization. Some of these photos of cartel tattoos will show you just how intense tattooing can get. This list illustrates some of the tattoos that adorn Mexican cartel and gang members, along with the meanings the lie behind them.