Overlooking the Mediterranean, near where I live, there is a tattoo shop that few customers go to. In the scarce hour that I am there and I finish my drink (they also serve them in the establishment) it strikes me that very few come to request the services of the tattoo artist, who has half of his skull full of tribal and other symbols. Some stop by to say hello and quickly leave to attend to other matters, they already know each other from before.
They are part of the largest and most dangerous biker club in the world, the Hells Angels or Hell’s Angels .
Behind the roar of the motorcycles and that air of Sons of Anarchy , a much less glamorous reality is hidden: drug trafficking and extortion. The Hells Angels subsist on small local businesses that they run with suspicion. The relations between the members of the club are based on a kind of pact of trust that they must fulfill yes or yes, and therefore they are obliged to commit certain acts, sometimes violent or criminal, for and for the future of the band.
Big Red Machine
It’s not that simple to access the band. If someone wants to join the Hells Angels, he must go through a trial period to prove his commitment.. From that moment on, other aspects of his life would go into the background and she would dedicate much of her time to them. The only way to access quickly is through a friend or through an absorption (when a group of bikers loses their identity to become part of another).
A good way to show that you are serious is to get tattoos. Any slogan is valid, be it Support 81 (the numbers correspond to the order in the alphabet of the initials HA) or Big Red Machine, alluding to the colors of the group.
A member of the Hell’s Angels shows off his tattoo. | Image by: Matthew Staver.
Little by little, the feeling of belonging to a group is penetrating and the initiates participate in the activities of the bikers, which consist ofin attending Harley Davidson rallies , organizing hangouts and concerts and, ultimately, engaging in extortion and drug trafficking. This is usually a sore point.
Getting out of Hell’s Angels is no easy task . Although an agreed exit is rarely achieved, simply disappearing is considered little less than a betrayal. In addition, the local group managers can be nervous about not knowing if you can inform third parties of criminal activities.
The origin of the band: World War II
The band was formed on March 17, 1948 and its highest representatives were the Bishop family, veterans of World War II. The name of the club is inspired by the American war battalions that participated in the conflict, such as the Death Angels.
The Bishop family forms the Hells Angels in the year 1948. | Image by: Bill Yenne.
Based in California, they gained notoriety in the 1960s as a countercultural movement in San Francisco, when the Harley Davidson brand became popular, although in later years crime became their main form of financing, and also a style of lifetime.
The Hells Angels in Spain
The Hells Angels are considered outlawsunder the jurisdiction of various countries, including the United States and Canada. In Spain, they have occupied several pages in the media for being protagonists of police operations.
For example, in November 2016, some nine people were arrested in Oviedo, A Coruna, Lugo and Vizcaya, all of them linked to the motorcycle club and charged withbelonging to a criminal organization, drug trafficking, extortion, coercion, injuries, illegal possession of weapons and theft . Three of the detainees represented senior positions in the gang, such as President or Sergeant at Arms.
Arrest of Frank Hanebuth in Mallorca, alleged leader of the Hells Angels. | Image from: Diario de Baleares.
In Cambrils, on the Tarragona coast, several members of the Hell’s Angels threatened a local tattoo artist who was competing with them. The bikers armed themselves with a hammer and threatened to break the artist’s hand if he did not agree to his claims. The extortionists were arrested.
The end of hegemony
The Hells Angels are today a shadow of their former selves and represent a minority group, with relatively little presence in our country. Although they continue to be respected for their long history and criminal history, other minor gangs are gaining strength on the peninsula, such as the Templarios.
In 2015 the news broke that Frank Hanebuth, considered the top leader of the band in Europe, was looking for work in our country. After spending two years in prison after being convicted of a long list of crimes, he collected the 60,000 euros of bail and returned to his residence in Mallorca ready to reintegrate into society, or so he claimed.
Meanwhile, belonging to a club continues to be a good excuse to remain outside the law, sometimes with total impunity and others with a well-known destination: prison.