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Salvadoran castaway in Mexico to fulfill promise

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) -- A Salvadoran fisherman who says he spent 13 months adrift in the Pacific Ocean arrived in Mexico Friday ready to meet with the family of a young companion who died early in the voyage.

Alvarenga said he promised his friend Ezequiel Cordoba, who died about a month into the ordeal, that he would give a message from him. The Salvadoran castaway didn't reveal the words his friend asked him to convey.

Alvarenga's boat washed up in the Marshall Islands in February and now he is back in the country where the journey began in December 2012. His tale of survival was difficult to believe for many who couldn't explain how a man managed to survive by catching turtles, fish and birds, drifting more than 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometers) into the sea.

The 37-year-old man landed in Mexico City's airport Friday with his parents and lawyer before catching another flight to Chiapas state to meet Cordoba's family.

"I feel like a hero," said Alvarenga after arriving in the Chiapas town of Tapachula, from where he will drive to the fishing village of Costa Azul, the place where it all began.

Alvarenga said his boat engine stopped working on Dec. 12, 2012, when a storm hit and sent them further and further into the ocean, making it impossible to return to land.

"There was nothing else we could do, except cry and suffer," Alvarenga said.

There was a lot of suffering from hunger, and he said he often cried and prayed to God for a miracle. Other than that, Alvarenga offered little details of the incredible voyage, saying he wants to save them for a book.

"I don't feel capable yet of telling what I remember," he said. "When I talk about that day, I feel like I am back there in the moment when I was suffering and hurting... what I am trying to do is to forget that."

The sea survivor limped, but unlike his first public appearances where he spoke pausing a lot, he was articulate this time.

Alvarenga's attorney, Benedicto Perlea, said that they are in talks with publishers and producers for a book and a movie about his survival.

Alvarenga said he has decided that he no longer wants to be a fisherman and prefers to find a safer job in his native El Salvador.

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ChingOW Mango March 15 2014 at 6:31 PM

How the hell much did this dude weigh when he first drifted off to sea?!? Seems like he would have come back all skinny, sunburned, puffy eyes and lips - maybe even his hair bleached from the sun. Guess being lost in the ocean forever just agrees with him. When they make the movie will he have a volley ball for a companion or what's the deal here?

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Luvucats March 15 2014 at 9:50 PM

If he was able to survive, why wasn't his shipmate able to survive? This is a strange story.

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2 replies
topspahn Luvucats March 15 2014 at 11:04 PM

Have you ever heard of canibalism?

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hynotman Luvucats March 16 2014 at 3:24 AM

Why doesn't EVERYBODY survive a disaster if one person was able to?

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hly3wd March 15 2014 at 11:06 AM

what's so hard to believe? it is not impossible. eat any fish, turtle, etc. that you can catch. yes you can eat that stuff raw. he obviously had shelter in the small boat. he must have drank rain water or something. maybe it was a mild season so the ocean conditions weren't too rough? if you can't handle eating raw food surviving would be nearly impossible.. unless you had something to make fire... which on a small boat would be hard without destroying your vessel. that is why the other man died.

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2 replies
cgssnavickas hly3wd March 15 2014 at 3:20 PM

I find it almost impossible that he came away from his ordeal without being sunburned. If you're adrift at sea for that long without any equipment (Did they find anything in the boat?) or any form of shelter you're going to get burnt. He wasn't.

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cgssnavickas hly3wd March 15 2014 at 3:22 PM

I have news for you...If I had no shelter or water supply and I was out in the sun for only a few days I would be dehydrated.

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unoredeye March 15 2014 at 6:41 PM

I wonder if he will still eat seafood?

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glad2bme08 March 15 2014 at 1:50 PM

americans are weird. we believe lindsay lohan, we believe jerry springer. but we are too comfortable in owr own american world. we need to widen our horizons to really understand our planet and the humen race. i know friends that asked me if they use cars in el salvador? another asked me if they have supermarkets in mexico. come on! are we really that ignorant?, or i just happened to run into 2 of the real ignorants? we are in a protected bubble amune to real misfortunes of the world we live in. from the hunger and the suffering of other countries less fortunate.

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1 reply
BARRY AND KATHY glad2bme08 March 15 2014 at 3:59 PM

After reading your comment, my answer is; YES! We really ARE that ignorant.
For God's sake, try spell check or grammar check or anything else which helps.

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1 reply
gaitgoinon BARRY AND KATHY March 17 2014 at 12:07 AM

Yes you are ignorant not to mention arrogant. God sake?, god doesn't care about grammer or spelling. If I bought a degree would that make me smart. Cause that's what americans do.

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John March 15 2014 at 7:55 PM


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Kathie March 15 2014 at 10:25 PM

This guys a joke right???? lol No person in there right mind would believe a word of this ridiculous story.

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rabbitkicksbutt March 15 2014 at 11:12 PM

For those who say that he could have taken cover on his ship, have you seen the photo of the fishing boat that they show? There is no cover anywhere. Its like a row boat. There were 12 major cyclones in 2013 and one of them was the most costliest for that country and the storms were all in the area that he was supposed to be adrift. There is no way that boat nor him could have survived those waves and wind. Maybe he was out there a month but no way he was out at sea for 13 mths. with no cover from the sun. The photos are above to show the boat for all you believers

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stikman83 March 15 2014 at 12:59 PM

If anyone actually followed his story since the beginning they would know that he has not been a fisherman all his life; he just started several years ago. Also he claimed to catch birds, fish, and turtles but according to what witnesses found in his boat there wasn't any fishing equipment. And i'm not sure what kinds of birds he could catch in the middle of the ocean, since most birds can't fly thousands of miles from land; they need to land somewhere. He supposedly claimed to catch the birds, fish, and turtles with his bare hands. Really? The doctors are somewhat stunned he's not emaciated, or sunburned, or dehydrated and is somewhat good health for being lost at sea for 13 months. I guess we'll have to wait for the Hollywood movie to get the truth.

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2 replies
cgssnavickas stikman83 March 15 2014 at 3:08 PM

I've always thought this story smelled fishy.

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BARRY AND KATHY stikman83 March 15 2014 at 4:00 PM

If Chris Christy were to be lost at sea for 13 months with nothing to eat, he would look like this guy.

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DOUG March 16 2014 at 12:33 AM

I dont beleive any of his story. 13 months in a boat. What was he using as fresh water to drink???? How was he cooking the food he claims to have caught. This is gonna turn out to be one big scam.

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1 reply
cymrei DOUG March 16 2014 at 2:40 AM

Well, he could always eat the food raw. That isn't the deal breaker here. The freshwater (or lack thereof) while out at sea really gives me pause. I have a very hard time believing that over a period of a year and one month that he was simply lucky enough to get enough rain to survive. 3 days without fresh water is putting you at risk of death, though apparently some people have managed for a little over a full week. Also, you need fresh water to digest that food you are eating. I see plot holes.

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1 reply
hynotman cymrei March 16 2014 at 3:15 AM

Reverse osmosis machine onboard?

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