When 36-year-old fisherman Salvador Alvarenga exited a police boat (see above) to inadvertently meet the press, his remarkable story of survival immediately began to resonate. Originally from El Salvador, Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico in a small boat with Ezequiel Córdoba in 2012 for what would become a harrowing 438-day marathon of physical and mental stresses. Speaking with the Guardian’s Jonathan Franklin, Alvarenga is now giving a detailed look at his 14-month Cast Away status and the tragic death of his friend Córdoba.
"I was so hungry that I was eating my own fingernails, swallowing all the little pieces," Alvarenga revealed to Franklin, describing the eventual difficulties faced by the two in the wake of a brutal storm. Alvarenga even resorted to grabbing jellyfish from the water and "swallowing them whole," adding that it burned the top part of his throat but actually "wasn’t so bad."
One of the most emotional points of Alvarenga's story revolves around the loss of Córdoba, and the difficulties of accepting death when stranded with apparently no hope:
The two men made a pact. If Córdoba survived, he would travel to El Salvador and visit Alvarenga’s mother and father. If Alvarenga made it out alive, he’d go back to Chiapas, Mexico, and find Córdoba’s devout mother who had remarried an evangelical preacher. “He asked me to tell his mother that he was sad he could not say goodbye and that she shouldn’t make any more tamales for him – they should let him go, that he had gone with God,” Alvarenga told me.
"I am dying, I am dying, I am almost gone," Córdoba said one morning.
"Don’t think about that. Let’s take a nap," Alvarenga replied as he lay alongside Córdoba.
"I am tired, I want water," Córdoba moaned. His breath was rough. Alvarenga retrieved the water bottle and put it to Córdoba’s mouth, but he did not swallow. Instead he stretched out. His body shook in short convulsions. He groaned and his body tensed up. Alvarenga suddenly panicked. He screamed into Córdoba’s face, "Don’t leave me alone! You have to fight for life! What am I going to do here alone?"
Peep the full, and quite amazing, story here. Then give this guy a hand for representing a true triumph of the human spirit.