San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Lost at sea

Emotional Salvadoran shipwreck survivor meets dead mate's kin

EL FORTIN, Mexico — The Salvadoran castaway who says he survived more than a year at sea had a tearful meeting Saturday with the family of his shipmate who did not make it home.

José Salvador Alvarenga traveled from his homeland to neighboring Mexico to speak with the parents and siblings of the late Ezequiel Cordova, 24.

They welcomed the visitor with tearful hugs. And they all met for three hours privately.

“This gives me some peace, because in my dreams, he asked me to speak with his mother,” said Alvarenga, 37, choking back tears.

Alvarenga says the man he hired as a helper died four months after their fishing boat broke down and was cut adrift because he could not stomach a diet of urine, turtle blood, and raw fish and bird flesh.

Alvarenga washed ashore in the Marshall Islands on January 30, telling reporters he survived the 12,500-kilometer (8,000-mile) voyage in a seven-meter (23-foot) fiberglass boat after leaving Mexico’s Pacific coast — in Chiapas state — 13 months earlier.

“He gave me strength,” Alvarenga recalled of his shipmate.

Alvarenga says that he and Cordova made a pact that if one of them survived, they would visit the other one’s family to tell the astonishing tale.

“I feel better now. I am more at peace because now I know what happened,” said Cordova’s grieving mother Roselia Ríos Cueto. “Now I know what my son’s last words were. That fills me with peace.”

Cordova’s family had said it did not blame Alvarenga, who has risen to worldwide fame because of his story of survival, but wanted to know what happened.

Alvarenga’s attorney Benedicto Pereira said his client told Cordova’s mother he could not throw her son’s body overboard for three days, hoping against hope Cordova might still awaken.

After the emotional meeting, Alvarenga headed to the Chiapas state town of Chocohuital, where he lived for several years and has many fishermen friends with whom he plans to share memories of his odyssey.

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