|Founded||Founded in 1952 in or near East Garfield Park|
Founded in the East Humboldt Park section of West Town neighborhood, Logan Square
|Formerly known as||
Culebra Loca 1952-1960?; Spanish Cobras 1960-1992
|Colors||Black and Green|
|Primary ethnicities||Latino (Puerto Rican)|
|Symbols||Cobra, Diamond, Staff, and 3 Dots|
Cobra snake, diamond with three dots, staff with diamond and three dots, pitchfork 1978-1992
The Spanish Cobras history is a very allusive one full of mystery and misconception. The most important thing to understand when researching the history of these gangs is to understand where and when migration happened. In this case we have to focus on Puerto Rican migration. In the later 1940s the first major wave or Puerto Ricans migrated into the northern part of downtown into a settlement known as “La Clark” (Near North Side neighborhood).
By 1952, another Puerto Rican settlement started in the Near West Side neighborhood along Madison Street known as “La Madison.” The La Madison settlement was mainly in the Near West Side neighborhood on Madison Street from Halsted Street to Kedzie. La Madison also extended more west to the East Garfield Park neighborhood on Madison Ave between Madison and Harrison Streets. We will now focus in on the East Garfield Park settlement of La Madison for Spanish Cobra history.
It was in the streets of East Garfield Park where the Spanish Cobras were given birth in 1952 under the original name “Culebra Loca” meaning crazy Snakes, and were not put together by Richard Medina A.K.A King Cobra or any of the Medina brothers, Jaime or William, but Richard Medina was an original member which gets him mistaken as the founder.
Before the 1950s East Garfield Park was an all-white west side neighborhood. In the early 1950s East Garfield Park experienced their first African American and Puerto Rican residents. Although the white residents did not mind the Puerto Ricans as much as the presence of blacks they still showed some hate and discrimination toward the newly arrived Puerto Ricans. Eventually white greaser clubs or just groups of wild white thugs started harassing the Puerto Rican youths, it was at this time that the Puerto Rican youths came together to form the “Culebra Loca.” I have no idea who the founder was and I am not sure if anyone does, it seems like that historical fact is long lost. But who knows maybe someone will show up with at least a nickname someday.
The Spanish Cobras from the start were a very secretive organization that stayed out of the public eye as much as possible. They started somewhere between Harrison Street and Madison Ave in the southern part of East Garfield Park.
During the 1950s white residents were starting to move out of the area due to the fact that East Garfield Park was becoming run down and had no future. The white residents were replaced by black families. As the 1950s progressed more and more black gangs formed up in the Garfield Park neighborhoods and many of them rivaled Culebra Loca. As far as I know the Culebra Loca was the only Latino gang in the whole Garfield Park area. One of the known on and off rivals of the Culebra Loca was the Imperial Roman Cobras, a black gang that existed since at least the 1950s.
In the year 1960, the Spanish Cobras were identified and documented by social services under the name “Spanish Cobras;” therefore, the name was changed in 1960 or before then, but there was no case worker assigned to them, the name had just come up but there was no other information, at this point they were still operating in the East Garfield Park area.
On August 3, 1964 the Spanish Cobras ended up in a small section of the news paper because the leader of the Imperial Roman Cobras Charles Bibbs “Bibby” was shot in the face at 4407 Jackson Blvd (Jackson and Kostner) with a sawn off shotgun. This happened in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. Bibby was at his friend’s house when his 16 year old brother “Flanders” showed up and said the Spanish Cobras were starting trouble right around the way. Bibby was too hasty and grabbed the sawn off shotgun he kept under his friend’s porch the wrong way and blew his own face off. It was at this point that Chicago Police and the whole world got to learn a tad bit more about the Spanish Cobras. Apparently both Cobra gangs had on and off wars. Bibby would call truces with whoever the leader of the Spanish Cobras was at the time to a meeting place to work out differences once and a while. The article from 1964 said the Spanish Cobras operate north of the Congress Expressway, which of course shows the Cobras were just north of the expressway. If they were further north in Humboldt Park the article would have specified that, which further proves Spanish Cobras operated within the same vicinity, and that the Spanish Cobras were indeed an East Garfield Park gang in their first chapter of existence. If they were at all in Humboldt Park, they would not be clashing with this other Cobra gang so often, they would have been too far a apart to give a crap about each other besides maybe a brawl once and a great while. The article states that they would fight with guns, clubs, black jacks and knives (Chicago Tribune, Juneau, Aug 3, 1964).
In 1965 a massive riot broke out in the East and West Garfield Park neighborhoods based upon a negligent death of an African American woman. East Garfield Park was well over 70% African American by 1965 and Puerto Ricans were now starting to move out just like the whites. There was massive looting and destruction in these neighborhoods that fell beyond repair. After this happened, the last of the white residents moved out along with the Puerto Rican community that relocated to West Humboldt Park. Once the Cobras arrived in Humboldt Park they were greeted with heavy amounts of hate from neighborhood white greaser gangs like the Gaylords and Simon City Royals, and the battles ensued.
To further prove that the Spanish Cobra’s original hood was in East Garfield Park, we can explore the case of The People Vs. Hill in 1968. On July 3, 1966 a large group of 15 or 20 Roman Saints and one Casanova Cobra gathered up at the intersection of Albany and Jackson in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. The group ventured to the actual Garfield Park located in East Garfield Park. According to court documents the gang members spotted three members of the Spanish Cobras sitting on a park bench drinking beers. When the Spanish Cobras saw the rival gang coming they shouted out “Spanish Cobras!” After they heard the rivals holler out the Spanish Cobra cry they started shooting at them with a rifle and a pistol. One Spanish Cobra was shit in the back and killed. The Spanish Cobra killed was Charles Lenier who was 24 years old at that time. (People Vs. Hill 1968).
Once the Spanish Cobras reached West Humboldt Park they began heavier recruiting that spread into East Humboldt Park (in the West Town neighborhood) and Kelvyn Park (within the Hermosa neighborhood) by the late 1960s.
By the early 1970s the Spanish Cobras were becoming a clear force to be reckoned with and had spread into Logan Square (Koz Park area). All along the way they were battling with Latin Kings, Gaylords and Simon City Royals, but they made some allies with the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Disciples.
By about the mid-1970s Richard Medina A.K.A King Cobra was appointed the new leader of the Spanish Cobras, his younger brothers Jaime and William also were given rank. At this point in time in the mid-1970s the Spanish Cobras found a new enemy the Insane Unknowns. The Insane Unknowns set up shop at the legendary street corner of Leavitt and Schiller in Wicker Park. Even though this corner was the motherland and birth place of north side Latin Kings it came under Insane Unknown control because many Kings there flipped to Unknown and that started a war between IUK and LKs. Anyway, now the Spanish Cobras and Unknowns were at each other’s throats.
In 1976 Richard “King Cobra” Medina took over control of the Spanish Cobras and immediately reached out to the Latin Disciples street gang because he knew the Disciples were having a major problem with the “U.F.O” (United Five Organization) which was the alliance of white power gangs the C-Notes, Gaylords, Taylor Jousters, Chi West, and PVPs or PVRs that had been going on since 1973 and was growing stronger. There was also the Latin Kings that were really large in size and trying to take over everything. This new unity became known as the “Young Latino Organization” or “YLO.” In 1978 YLO opened its doors to the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Eagles to create the “United Latino Organization” or “ULO.”
On November 11th 1978 Larry Hoover, the leader of the Black Gangster Disciple Nation created the Folk Nation alliance behind prison walls. His goal was to immediately unite the BGDs and Black Disciples and to also unite with Latino and white gangs. The Spanish Cobras were one of the Latino gangs that were asked to join the Folk Nation along with some other allies like the Imperial Gangsters, Latin eagles, Orquestra Albany and the Latin Disciples. The Spanish Cobras were also allied with the Simon City Royals and the Almighty Insane Popes.
The Spanish Cobras had become highly organized at this point in time which is known as the “Capone era,” and a lot of that was credited to King Cobra and maybe that is why his praises went so far that he was accredited as the founder of the Spanish Cobras. Realistically he was just the founder of a more organized Cobra gang. His Brothers Jaime and William moved up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and started the Milwaukee chapter of the Spanish Cobras. These three men knew how to organize and had charisma and that is why they were legends to the organization.
Tragedy struck on April 12, 1979 when Richard King Cobra Medina had just pulled up at his residence at Maplewood and Division with his girlfriend and their new born baby. Richard could smell something in the air and somehow knew something bad was going to go down. He told his girl to take the baby and hurry up and get inside. Richard began unloading the baby car seat and as he did a car pulled up and fired several bullets into his body and he was found slumped over the baby seat and was DOA at the scene, he was 40 years old when he died, contrary to what the newspapers said that he was in his early 20s, but his grave stone says he was born on January 7, 1939. The Leavitt and Schiller Insane Unknowns were to blame for the murder in retaliation for the killing of Ruben Perez an original Insane Unknown. The Cobras were now full of hate and ready to kill.
Anibal “Tuffy C” Santiago took over as the new leader of the Spanish Cobras. A few days later the Spanish Cobras got their revenge and shot up Ramon “Papo” Cruz who was shot dead at 1053 N. Springfield Ave (Thomas and Springfield). The Spanish Cobras shot him 9 times making this murder a bloody mess. Police arrested James Rosado, at the time 19 years old, for the murder and claimed he shot him with 25 and 38 caliber handguns. This went down the same day that King Cobra was killed. The Spanish Cobras wasted no time in getting revenge; they would not even sleep on it before going out for a murder. After this more murdering went down, the Insane Unknowns got their revenge for Papo’s death, and then the Cobras retaliated. By April 22nd there were two more murders as the Insane Unknowns put bags on their heads and blasted 4 kids that claimed they were not Spanish Cobras, nevertheless, the Unknowns opened fire on all 4 youths and killed two brothers. This occurred at 3848 West Hirsch (between Avers and Hirsch and Springfield and Hirsch). At that point 6 people had been killed due to this bloody gang war and this does not account for the several beatings, gang fights, graffiti, and other destruction and violence that occurred during this war. The bloody saga continued and this brought attention from all of law enforcement and Mayor Jane Byrne. The gang war became well published, as many newspapers published the murders I listed in issues of the 1979 Chicago Tribune, which is where I got this info, and the Spanish Cobras now reached a new level of infamy to the world.
The intense war with the Unknowns did not fizzle out a little until 1981, regardless, the Cobras made it a point to kill at least one rival every anniversary day since King Cobra’s death in 1980, 1981 and 1982 until law enforcement cracked down on it on April 12, 1983 when they spotted Spanish Cobras chanting gang slogans at Richard Medina’s grave. They were all arrested for disorderly conduct which caused no shooting to happen that day. It was also in 1981 that Tuffy C was convicted of the October 7 for the murder of Juan Gomez at the corner of Monticello and Courtland in Logan Square, which he is still doing time for, he was 23 years old at the time (People vs. Gutierrez, 1985).
In the 1980s the Spanish Cobras continued to grow and kept their Folk Nation allies close to them and avoided interalliance wars. The Cobras also had very strong connections with the Black Gangster Disciples and the Latin Disciples and showed the pitchfork in all their literature and spray painted gang symbols. By the late 1980s the Cobras spread into the Chicago land suburbs like Waukegan, Elgin, Deerfield, Wheeling and Bensenville.
Starting in 1989, the Spanish Cobras joined the SGD (Spanish Growth And Development) Coalition or “La Tabla” in prison, which was an attempt to organize the Latin Folks gangs by creating an organized council within the Folk Nation that would keep any brewing interalliance wars from popping off. The Latin Disciples were one of the main gangs at the top seat of the council alongside their biggest allies the Spanish Cobras. The SGD basically gave complete power to Latino and white gangs to govern themselves without the African American Folk Nation gangs intervening. Instead of being a positive thing for the Latin Folks, SGD ended up having a reverse effect. The Latin Disciples were at the head of the La Tabla; therefore, they were one of the main decision making organizations if disputes were brought before La Tabla, this apparently made the Latin Disciples think they could run everything and they began wandering into allies’ drug turf and infringing on drug turf boundaries. Latin Disciples also felt they had superiority over their allies and this especially did not vibe with the Spanish Cobras and small conflicts began to happen between the two organizations that led them to shoot at each other here and there. Since Latin Disciples were high on La Tabla, Spanish Cobra grievances often went unresolved, which angered the Cobras.
Spanish Cobras would also end up in a major conflict with fellow ULO allies the Latin Eagles starting the night of September 9, 1989. The Latin Eagles threw a party at Caguas Nightclub which used to be located at 2444 West North Ave in the Logan Square neighborhood. The Eagles invited allies from the Spanish Cobras, Maniac Latin Disciples and Campbell Boys to the party. As the night went on a fight broke out between a Latin Eagle and a Spanish Cobra, eventually someone pulled out a gun and started firing it off. The crowd panicked and ran out the door in a hurry. Outside the fight turned into a massive brawl that ended up resulting in the beating death of a man with a two by four piece of wood (Illinois People vs. Johnson, 1995).
In 1991, all peace and harmony between fellow Folk Nation gangs was over with. The Latin Disciples were getting too big; in fact, they now outnumbered the Spanish Cobras even though the Cobras were a much older gang.
Latin Disciples were moving in on Spanish Cobra drug territories and this angered the Cobras. The two organizations then broke out into war. The two organizations now hated each other as much as they hated the Latin Kings!
The Cobras dropped the pitchfork from all their literature and re-evaluated who their real Folk friends were. Throughout the 1980s there were some ULOs that hung more with Disciples while there were others that hung more with Cobras. Both the Cobras and the Ds told their allies they needed to pick and choose, there was no hanging with both anymore. This also meant each of these bigger brother organizations was going to dictate where and when drug profits could be made and also imposed some taxes on allies. At first it was an ok deal for the Folks up north back in the early 1990s.
The Latin Disciples created their own alliance known as the “Maniacs” and changed their name to the“Maniac Latin Disciples” officially (after being used loosely from 1973-1992) based upon one of their crazy members leaping out of a police station window during interrogation while screaming out “I am a maniac!”
The Spanish Cobras’ leader Tuffy C and “Indigo” drew up the Insane Familia while he was still doing time in prison for the 1981 murder. They now became the “Insane Spanish Cobras” as of 1992.
The Maniacs took in the YLO Disciples, Maniac Campbell Boys, Maniac Latin Stylers, Maniac Jatin Jivers, Maniac Latin Lovers, and the Maniac Milwaukee Kings. The Spanish Cobras and Insane familia took in the YLO Cobras, Insane Orquestra Albany, Insane Ashland Vikings, Insane Deuces, Insane Campbell Boys, Insane Dragons and the Insane Harrison Gents. In response to all this the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Eagles refused to take either side and refused to be taxed or ruled by either alliance so they started their own called the “almighty family.” This alliance originally consisted of Almighty Imperial Gangsters, Almighty Simon City Royals, Almighty Latin Eagles and the Almighty Insane Popes (North side). This of course meant a 3 way war between all these alliances.
In 1992 things got real bloody between the Cobras and the Simon City Royals. The MLD and Spanish Cobra war soon became the most legendary of them all as they gunned each other down in Wicker Park, Logan Square and East Humboldt Park.
By 1995 the followers of the Maniacs began to realize that being a Maniac was not what was right for them as they disagreed with MLDs’ taxes and rules and then declared war on them. The Latin Jivers broke from the Maniacs and became Insane for maybe a year then went independent and went to war with the Cobras. The Latin Lovers also dropped Maniac but they went over to Insane and stayed there. The Milwaukee Kings also broke away from Maniac but then stayed independent. The Cobras also experienced conflict with their own Harrison Gents, although it was not initially the Cobras’ fault that the HGs were leaving, it was because Ashland Vikings and HGs could not get along and the HGs left the Insanes in favor of the Almighty family where they remain today. The Cobras found a replacement for the Gents, the C-Notes who previously were an independent organization and a part of the UFO alliance.
On February 13, 1996 the Spanish Cobras made front page news when members of the Talman and Wabansia MLDs attempted a mass execution of members of the Spanish Cobras at three street corners in the East Humboldt Park neighborhood. Johnny “Don Loco” Almadovar ordered the murders of random Spanish Cobras to avenge the murder of a Maniac Latin Disciple member “Hi Lo” earlier that month. The shooting was carefully planned accept for the fact that the victims all survived the brutal executions. Initially, small groups of Cobras got revenge by shooting some MLDs on the streets and that was seen to the public eye as the revenge, but in reality the Cobras had a bigger, more behind the scenes, and patiently planned attack against the MLDs.
Spanish Cobra leaders met at a Day’s Inn Hotel on Mannheim Road near O’Hare Airport to plan a counterattack. The Cobras then picked out who they were going to kill and when. The hits would be coordinated with a police scanner. The Cobras also called up their allies to do the murders, the Insane Deuces, Latin Lovers etc….. The murders were carried out in various locations such as: Logan Square, East Village, Hermosa, Albany Park, Ravenswood section of the Lincoln Square neighborhood, Ukrainian Village section of the West Town neighborhood and the suburbs of Waukegan and Aurora. High ranking members were carefully executed by allies of the Cobras and these did not make headline news as tied together. The Cobra retaliation was indeed far more superior and clever than the Godfather Style hits by the MLDs in Humboldt Park (Hagedorn, The Insane Chicago Way, P. 193 and 194).
In the spring of 1999, the Maniac Latin Disciples and Spanish Cobra leadership decided it was finally time to end this vicious war between them and hold a peace conference at the YMCA located at 1834 North Lawndale Ave in the Logan Square neighborhood. Leaders of both Maniac street gangs like MLDs, YLO Disciples, Maniac Campbell Boys and Latin Stylers showed up, and leaders of the Insane family such as Spanish Cobras, YLO Cobras, Ashland Vikings, C-Notes, Insane Dragons, Latin Lovers and Orquestra Albany showed up. Peace was agreed upon right away and the bitter 1990s war of the Insanes and Maniacs was finally going to end; however, not all MLDs felt like it should end. The renegade group of MLD supports led by “Little Bum” did not attend the meeting instead they drove around the meeting and set up lots of teenage soldiers outside the meeting. When peace was announced the teens began screaming out gang slogans and screaming about how they wanted no peace. The leaders of the gangs then left the meeting in a hurry because bad stuff was about to go down. One MLD leader got stranded “Carlito” as he exited the meeting alone and when he stepped out from of the YMCA Thomas “Outlaw” Ross, a member of the MLDs, gunned him down. This brought the end not only to peace talks for the warring families but also for the whole SGD/La Tabla That June day of 1999 and brought the end of the old school gang ways as we know it and the SGD (Hagedorn, The Insane Chicago Way, P. 206).