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  • ICAA Record ID
    Pistol Whippersnapper / Gamboa, G. vargas
    R.A.M. Collective (Ann Harbor). -- Vol. 2 (Jun. 1, 1977)
    Journal article – Other
    Gamboa, Harry Jr., George Vargas, and Patsi Valdez. “Pistol Whippersnapper.” R.A.M. Collective (Ann Harbor, MI), vol. 2 (June 1, 1977).

This document is an example of a Xerox mail art by Harry Gamboa, Jr. and Patssi Valdez of the East Los Angeles-based Asco Collective. Titled Pistol Whippersnapper, the piece stems from a Chicano Cinema No Movie created by Gamboa in 1976 as part of the “Young Boy in the 50s Series” (1976) and circulated as mail art in the United States. In the original version, Gamboa created an image/text flyer by utilizing photographs of him as a child as well as those of Patssi Valdez holding a gun. The narrative that accompanies the images has a five-year-old boy protagonist growing up in the 1950s under conditions of violence, repression, and sociopolitical and economic injustice. 

In this altered version of the initial mail art piece published in the RAM Collective Journal in Michigan, art historian George Vargas reformats the original design to fit the two-page journal centerfold, creating a new design as a roll of film with images of Valdez next to the text. In this new reinterpretive layout, Vargas adds images of pistols not present in the original version, thus paying homage to Asco's influence on members of the RAM Collective.      



The Raza Art and Media Collective (or RAM Collective) featured two artworks by Harry Gamboa, Jr. and Asco in their June 1, 1977, issue (Vol. 2, No. 1): Cruel Profit and Pistol Whippersnapper.

The original version of Pistol Whippersnapper is included in Harry Gamboa, Jr. and Chon A. Noriega, Ed. Urban Exile: Collected Writings of Harry Gamboa, Jr. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, pp. 172-177. 

Based out of the University of Michigan, RAM Collective was active between 1974 and 1979 as a way to provide an avenue for increased visibility to Latino artists in Michigan. It engaged in a series of exchanges with other art groups such as Asco and Con Safo active in East Los Angeles and San Antonio, respectively.

For additional information on RAM Collective see:

Olga U. Herrera, “Raza Art & Media Collective: A Latino Group in the Midwestern United States.” ICAA Document Project Working Papers. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts Houston: International Center for the Arts of the Americas, September 2007: 31-37, available for download on this website [].


Olga Herrera
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Courtesy of the author, Los Angeles, CA
Courtesy of Ana Cardona Papers, Julian Samora Library at the Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame