Skip to main content

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

From Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
March 19, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
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
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
For years, Morten Storm moved between two worlds. A radical Islamist turned double agent is lifting the lid on some of the world's best-kept secrets.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN how they were kidnapped and says no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him since his release.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0151 GMT (0951 HKT)
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2216 GMT (0616 HKT)
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
What will happen to Scotland's business (not to mention its currency) if they vote to leave?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
The Ebola virus, very deadly and currently without a cure, is fast-spreading throughout the small West African country.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Go to any provincial city in China and you'd be forgiven for thinking the national youth pastimes are online gaming and flirting.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea calls its human rights a "superior system."
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
In Wenzhou, called the "Jerusalem of China," authorities have demolished churches.
Are you Muslim? What do you want the world to know about your religion?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
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