Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Decoding the Narco Language of Tamaulipas

"Morogris" for Borderland Beat

Image by "HEARST"

In the Mexican criminal underworld, codes (claves) serve as an integral part of communication among drug traffickers.

Employed during radio transmissions, text messages, or phone conversations, these codes are designed to confuse authorities or rival cartel members who may be hearing them, obscuring the true nature of their messages. While these codes may evolve, certain traditions persist, with specific symbols representing specific entities, actions, individuals, or locations.

The Gulf Cartel is no different. Many of the towns and cities in Tamaulipas have been assigned narco codes for many years. 

The earliest mention of codes used by the Gulf Cartel that Borderland Beat was able to confirm dates back to 1996. During a raid on the Mexico City home of José Pérez de la Rosa, alias "El Amable," a former operative under the legendary Gulf Cartel leader Juan Garcia Abrego, investigators discovered several notebooks containing the cartel's coded language. The specific details of the codes were not disclosed.

In the mid to late 1990s, as the Gulf Cartel began recruiting more police officers for muscle, the use of codes became more prevalent. The early members of Los Metros, primarily consisting of former police officers, re-introduced this practice to the Gulf Cartel during that period. The early core of Los Zetas, comprised mostly of ex-commandos, also employed codes when discussing locations, individuals, and assets.

Here is a list of codes used or that have been used by cartels to refer to towns and cities in Tamaulipas. The location is on the left, followed by the corresponding code on the right.

These codes have been utilized by Los Zetas, Zetas Vieja Escuela (ZVE), Northeast Cartel (CDN), and Gulf Cartel (CDN), as well as other pertinent cells or factions within these organizations in Tamaulipas.

Note to readers: This is an incomplete list. If there are more codes for Tamaulipas cities and towns missing, please comment below. Providing an online reference would be tremendously helpful. Thank you.




La Muralla


Barra del Toro






Doble Cocas

Ciudad Victoria

Coca Victor


Campos de Ordeña

Díaz Ordaz

Delta Orozco

Diaz Ordaz

Delta Oscar



Estación Santa Engracia

La Naranja










Doble LL

Los Guerra





La Caña



Miguel Alemán

Metro Alfa

Miguel Aleman



Metro Tango Yankee

Nuevo Laredo


Nuevo Laredo

Néctar Lima

Nuevo Progreso

Néctar Papa

Nuevo Progreso

Néctar Pato



Río Bravo

Rango Base

Rio Bravo

Rango Brasa

San Fernando

Sierra Fox

Soto La Marina

Agua Chica





Valle Hermoso

Tres Mentiras

The coverage and understanding of these Tamaulipas narco codes are topics that are often underrepresented in the media. In the past, they were often confused for cartel cells or local factions.

These codes can certainly cause confusion, considering that it is common for local cells to refer to themselves by their codes. However, this implies that they are merely indicating their location and not necessarily declaring it as their group's name, although there may be some exceptions.

Metro, Rojo & Tangos

The codes Metro, Rojo, and Tango were among the most commonly used by the Gulf Cartel in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The origin of the code "Metro" is not officially known, and various theories have been proposed. El Gordo Montelongo, a police officer from Camargo, is said to have coined the term, which was later adopted by police officers working for the Gulf Cartel in the late 1990s.

One widely accepted theory suggests that they named the group "Los Metros" after Matamoros, using "Metro" as the radio signal code for the city. In essence, Los Metros (The Metros) served as a code name for Los de Matamoros (Those from Matamoros). It may also have originated from Miguel Alemán, considering that several of the founding Metros members were said to have been born there or in the surrounding municipalities.

Another possibility is that the name "Metros" originated from the official "Policía Metropolitana" (Metropolitan Police) of La Frontera Chica, where some of the original Metros members may have previously worked.

As time passed, Los Metros shifted their base to Reynosa, becoming more closely associated with that city than with Matamoros.

The code "Rojo" (Red) is used for Reynosa. However, confusion has arisen because the name was also adopted by a Matamoros faction known as Los Rojos (The Red Ones or The Reds). 

The code "Tango" is used for Tampico and was adopted in the early 2000s by their former leader Juan Carlos de la Cruz Reyna. Some Tampico-based members still use it today. When referring to the Tampico metropolitan area (Tampico, Madero, and Altamira), cartel members may refer to it as "Tango Metro Alfa."

The code "Lobos" was used in Nuevo Laredo in the early 2000s by members of Los Zetas, but it was replaced by Nectar Lima after the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas splintered in 2010. 

Sierra Fox, Tres Mentiras, La Naranja & Others

The code "Sierra Fox" designates San Fernando municipality and is likely derived from Baldomero Gonzalez Ruiz, alias "El Viejo Fox," a member of the Gulf Cartel during the 1990s, who was reportedly born in San Fernando. Known for being one of the bodyguards and hitmen within the inner security circle of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, he had close ties to the original Metros. Gonzalez Ruiz was wounded in a February 1999 shootout and has remained off the radar since then.

The code "Tres Mentiras" (Three Lies) is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the city of Valle Hermoso. Despite its translation to "Beautiful Valley," locals playfully assert that Valle Hermoso lacks a valley, isn't a city (but rather a town), and isn't beautiful, giving rise to the name "Three Lies."

The code "La Naranja" (The Orange) refers to Estacion Santa Engracia because this town, located just north of the Tamaulipas capital of Ciudad Victoria, is renowned for its extensive orange production. The town is commonly called Estacion Santa Engracia de los Naranjos (of the Oranges) and even boasts an orange-themed hotel.

Other codes, such as "Barra del Toro" and "La Muralla" for Aldama municipality, are actual locations in the area, including landmarks, scenic points, and landforms.

In conclusion, the intricate system of narco codes in Tamaulipas provides a glimpse into the clandestine communication methods of drug traffickers. These codes, sometimes influenced by the region's history, idiosyncrasies, and geography, persist and undergo changes over time.

Sources: Milenio; UNAM; Valor por Tamaulipas; TodoPorMexico Foro; Borderland Beat Forum; Borderland Beat Archives


  1. Osiel 100% snitching and living in witness protection eating egg noodles and ketchup

    1. He is an average nobody. He gets to live the rest of his life like a schnook

    2. Osiel's mother was Irish, so he couldn't get made into the Matamoros crew..

  2. What was the source of the HK clave that some early Zetas used?

  3. What was the source of the HK clave that some early Zetas used?

  4. A “code” isn’t much a code any longer after authorities have compromised it and especially after some blog knows about it. I doubt these are used as “code” any longer. Convenient abbreviations maybe, but “code” no.

    1. Thanks for your comment! The reason why we worked on this report was to put all the codes / claves here in a single place. Most of the code references online were scattered all over. We noticed we did't have a place where we listed them all and explained what they possibly meant or made reference to, especially as these will change over time. Narcos still use them in their radio communication and in songs, even if authorities "already know" what they mean.

    2. la frase "las tes mentiras" referido a Ciudad Valle Hermoso, no es un código es mas bien como un sobrenombre

    3. 2:17 si pero comoquiera lo usan para referirse a VH.

  5. Progreso ahorita es Nectar Pato

    Y Moros El Agua si no me equivoco

    1. Gracias. Ya agregue el de Nectar Pato porque pude encontrar algunas canciones que lo mencionan. Donde puedo confirmar el de El Agua? Saludos.

    2. Hay reportajes donde lo mencionan como un punto (casa de Seguridad)

      Pero en el corrido Escolta Suicida con claves (Desde El Agua hasta El Nectar) que en ese tiempo la letra solo se manejaba en la Frontera Tamaulipeca

  6. It seems that these codes are in some way introduced by the military/police defectors of that time period. Is that right? Sort of like how Zetas used "Commandante's" instead of the traditional "plaza boss" used by other groups.

    Really cool. Nice work M.

    1. Thank you! And yes, that appears to be what happened. The earliest mention I've been able to find of someone being referred to as a "Comandante" in the CDG was in 1996-ish with Antonio Avila or Davila Cruz (alias El Comandante). He was an ex-police chief. We did see "Lugarteniente" before but in Spanish that doesn't necessarily imply a military/police title.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Monterey is Metro Tango Yankee

  9. Miguel aleman is known as “METAL”

  10. monterrey = el reyno
    "lobos"= was crew of gulf cartel in 2000s in Nuevo laredo, youtube show a video of shoting vs AFI
    Metro origins= Ministeriales, Samuel flores borrego founder metros when was former policia ministerial (Investigacion police, Detectives,Policia de la procuraduria estatal, now fiscalia "policia de investigacion"

  11. Excellent article Morogris 👍👍. Alguien sabe que cuidad es la de Lado Guindo? I want to say it might be Los Guerra 🤔


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