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CITYSCAPES / ASHLEY DUNN

For Lonely Crusader, Indignation's Cost Is Compounded Daily

May 17, 1993|ASHLEY DUNN

On a blistering hot day in Southern California, Javier Ramirez Galvez--a modern day Job--is pacing the sidewalk in front of the Mexican Consulate on 6th Street, hefting a sandwich sign on his shoulders and two placards in each hand.

"MORE THAN 26 MONTHS PROTESTING EVERY DAY DEFENDING MY HUMAN RIGHTS," one sign reads in crudely drawn red letters.

People walk by, oblivious to his cause. Passersby yell at him: "Go back to work!" Not too long ago a jogger pulled down his sweat pants and bared his buttocks at him.

"This is my own hell," he moans.

*

In a city brimming with indignities, Javier Ramirez Galvez is waging what may be its longest, loneliest crusade.

For more than two years, he has gone to the Mexican Consulate each day to demonstrate over a dispute so complicated that even those disposed to sympathy would be hard-pressed to grasp its full flavor.

His signs don't help much: "THAT: PUBLIC INTEREST CAN BE AFFECTED IF PROSECUTE, WHO I SUED (VERY RICH)."

Every weekday, except Mexican national holidays, he pulls a full eight-hour shift of outrage--rain or shine. Heaping even greater suffering on himself, Ramirez has to commute from his home in Santa Ana to his protest site in Los Angeles.

But he feels his cause is just and vows to persevere. He has turned down a $100,000 offer to settle his dispute with a large brokerage firm in Mexico.

"You feel very lonely," he says. "I'm single. I have no social life. I'm 42 years old. It's an awful thing to do."

He sums up his workday: "I hate coming here."

*

What distinguishes Galvez, a philosopher, writer and unemployed food server, from the mass of protesters who daily flood the city is the sheer tenacity of his crusade. He is the maestro of indignation.

The roots of Ramirez's travails date back six years, to just before the great stock market crash of October, 1987. He relates his tale in a fast-paced, rambling fashion punctuated by feverish searches through a pile of documents he keeps with him at all times.

Ramirez had worked in the United States on and off since 1966. For three years starting in 1982, he was a food server in a variety of restaurants, mostly in Orange County. He saved his earnings, amassing about $25,000 before deciding to return to his native Mexico.

He invested his money with one of Mexico's well-known brokerage firms and watched it multiply as the world's fastest-rising bull market surged forward.

Combined with his brother's savings, his small pot of gold soon grew to about $70,000. He decided to cash out to buy a home, start a business and maybe get married.

Ramirez claims that his broker failed to make the transaction. While trying to resolve the dispute, the crash suddenly occurred.

On the first day, his portfolio dropped 20%. He was devastated, but controlled himself.

The next day, his stocks tumbled another 15% or so, then another 18%, and so on.

After two weeks, he woke up one day and realized: "We don't have nothing. Zero."

Suddenly, an overwhelming choking feeling spread through his body--in his hands, his chest, his head, his legs. He found himself jumping up and down.

"I was completely, for a moment, out of control," he says. But then he took a shot of tequila and went for a walk.

Then, the second great blow occurred.

While his stocks were plummeting, Ramirez says, he was persuaded by his broker to borrow money and buy more stock in an effort to recoup his losses. Those stocks immediately nose-dived.

"I not only lost everything, they demanded the money I owed them!" he says.

He returned to the United States and eventually began his protest.

He wants the government to prosecute the offending brokerage firm and repay his losses, which he now estimates at about $200,000, considering inflation and interest.

Consular officials are somewhat puzzled by the whole thing.

"This is a civil suit," said Miguel Escobar, spokesman for the consulate. "There's nothing to be done here."

Escobar said that Ramirez has met with all three consuls who have been posted in Los Angeles in the past two years. At one point, the consulate helped negotiate the $100,000 settlement that Ramirez rejected.

With nothing more to be done, the consulate has settled into an easy routine with Ramirez. Employees now see him as just a part of life, Escobar said. "How can I say this . . . he's become part of the decoration," he added.

Ramirez said he has no time in his life for anything but protesting, working (although he is currently unemployed) and completing a science fiction novel.

The book is tentatively titled "Kondik," after the main character.

As Ramirez takes a break from protesting in nearby MacArthur Park, he relates the story of Kondik in a rambling narrative that seems at times to weave in and out of his own predicament.

The story is about a man who lives in a seemingly perfect world. For some reason, he speaks out against the status quo and is condemned to live on a prison planet.

Kondik vows to destroy the world he came from and spends the next few hundred pages figuring out how to do that.

Ramirez refuses to discuss the ending of his unpublished novel, although he will disclose that Kondik ultimately suffers a tragic fate.

"It is very sad. Terrible, terrible, terrible," he said. "But in the end, he is vindicated."

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