Skip to main content

New chapter in castaway's story: Keeping promise to companion who perished

From Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
updated 8:39 AM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jose Salvador Alvarenga travels back to Mexico to visit his companion's family
  • The castaway's survival at sea grabbed global attention; his companion perished
  • Alvarenga tells the fellow fisherman's mother his final words
  • Mother: "I'm very happy to see him again"

(CNN) -- It was a promise the castaway made to a dying man: He vowed the man's mother would learn how he perished and hear his last words.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga flew from El Salvador to Mexico this week to keep his word -- more than a month after the stunning story of his survival at sea captured international attention.

"It's a promise that we both had made," Alvarenga said after landing in Mexico City, "and now I'm here to fulfill it."

Alvarenga was found in an atoll in the Marshall Islands in late January. He told authorities there he had drifted on a small fishing boat for 13 months all the way from Mexico, more than 6,000 miles away.

Castaway returns to native El Salvador

As some hailed what seemed to be his miraculous survival and others said they doubted his story, there was a tragic side to the tale. His traveling companion, fellow fisherman Ezequiel Cordoba, 23, hadn't made it.

Alvarenga said Cordoba had died four weeks into their ordeal because he couldn't manage to drink turtle blood and eat raw fish.

While Alvarenga, 37, returned to his native El Salvador last month, Cordoba's family was left demanding answers.

This week, they got some.

Roselia Diaz, Cordoba's mother, said she was grateful that Alvarenga had traveled to the coastal Mexican town where she lives.

"For me, it would have been sadder if both had died, because I never would have known what happened to my son," she said. "So I'm very happy to see him again."

Alvarenga told reporters that Cordoba often spoke about his mother.

"He told me a lot about her, that she was a very good person with everybody, and that she was very loving," he said.

He taught me how to pray. He taught me to sing.
Jose Salvador Alvarenga on his companion who persihed

Alvarenga also told Cordoba's mother how the two fishermen passed the time while drifting in the open sea.

Cordoba, an Evangelical Christian, told the Salvadoran fisherman about his faith as they both clung to the hope of being found alive and rescued in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

"He taught me how to pray," Alvarenga said. "He taught me to sing."

The castaway said there were some things Cordoba told him that only the dead fisherman's mother must know.

"To reveal them publicly," he said, "would be to betray his memory."

READ: Castaway turned celebrity Alvarenga returns to native El Salvador

READ: Five things about the castaway's tale

CNN's Nick Parker and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
updated 11:20 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Groping, lewd comments, and that's not the worst of it.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
British hostage John Cantlie appears from the battle city of Kobani.
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT