In 1968, Gamboa helped lead the “East L.A. Walkouts” (aka “Chicano Blowouts”) at Garfield Senior High School. Students walked to protest against the substandard treatment of East L.A. public schools and a disproportionate draft of Mexican-American youth to the Vietnam War.
Over time, Garfield High became a place of transformation. Many of the alumni emerged as social leaders, artists, actors and musicians. “People who would probably be considered predetermined to fail became super achievers.” The Grammy Award-winning band, Los Lobos came out of Garfield, and musicians from a neighboring high school formed Cannibal & the Headhunters and went on to tour with The Beatles.
“The social pressure and social heat you encounter has potential to destroy, but it also has the potential to create a diamond. So if one can approach it almost mathematically, you can create yourself in the image of a diamond, you will shine in the distance and can cut through anything. I am a very old diamond now." Gamboa shrugs and laughs.