Carlos Font, Staff Writer
When you think about a castaway, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a guy that works for Fedex and gets stranded on an island after the company’s plane fell from the sky. You might also think about how Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) becomes best friends with a volleyball named Wilson. The story you are about to read has nothing to do with Tom Hanks and is definitely not a cheesy sequel called “Castaway 2.”
As if pulled from a Hollywood script, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, a native of El Salvador, survived 13 months in the Pacific Ocean. The fisherman, who was living in Mexico, claims to have gone out into the ocean in December 2012 on a one day fishing trip with a teenage companion. Alvarenga and the teenage companion were blown off-course by northerly winds and then were caught in a storm, eventually losing their boat engine due to malfunctions. The duo did not even have radio signal to report their predicament.
Alvarenga claims that the teenage boy who accompanied him died four weeks into being lost at sea. Alvarenga said that the teenage boy died because he refused to eat raw fish and turtles. When asked about the boy’s body, Alvarenga said that he threw it overboard.
Alvarenga who, to this day, still cannot understand how he survived 13 months in the Pacific Ocean, somehow found his way to the Marshall Islands. The castaway had traveled about 6,000 miles in the open ocean. Two islanders found Alvarenga and immediately alerted authorities. The two Islanders, Amy Libokmeo and Russell Laikerdik, fed Alvarenga pancakes as they communicated. According to CNN, Alvarenga and the rescuers communicated with each other using a mix of charades and hand-drawn pictures. One man’s young son even helped translate the Salvadoran’s story, using Spanish skills learned entirely from the animated children’s series “Dora the Explorer.”
Alvarenga was taken to a hospital where he was put through multiple medical and psychological tests. The doctors at the hospital in the Marshall Islands said that Alvarenga was a little off, which is understandable considering the man did not have human interaction for a year. While the Marshall Island’s government was making arrangements to send Alvarenga back to Mexico, it was discovered that he had been living illegally in the country. However, after the Mexican government heard the story, they are allowing Alvarenga back into the country. As of February 11, Alvarenga had been transported back to his native El Salvador where his health is continuing to be monitored.