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 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.
Hundreds of jihadis in Syria are from abroad -- which countries have the biggest problem?
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
CNN attends a funeral where mourners keep their distance.
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Obama's remarks that he didn't yet have a strategy for ISIS in Syria is widely criticized.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
updated 5:55 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In a major breach of privacy, a hacker leaked a series of pictures allegedly showing Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities in the nude.
Instead of weaving garments sold in the West, children should be in school
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers around the world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT