But a young man who accompanied him on the shark fishing trip in late 2012 died, and the victim’s family wants Alvarenga to return to Mexico to explain what happened.
Fellow fishermen in Chocohuital, a village nestled on a lagoon in the southern state of Chiapas, remembered Alvarenga as a good man with a quirky diet that they say gives credence to his amazing story.
The burly man they knew as “La Chancha,” the Spanish word for a sow, would gobble up anything, including dog food.
“He wasn’t picky. He ate everything. When he grabbed sardines, which we use as bait, we would tell him ‘no Chancha!’ But he would say with his husky voice: ‘Yes, you have to try everything,” his boss Bellardino Rodriguez said in an interview.
“We think that saved him,” Rodriguez said as fishermen rested on hammocks under huts on the shore of the lagoon lined with small, single-engine vessels.
Alvarenga, a 37-year-old native of El Salvador, claims he survived more than a year lost in the Pacific after leaving Chocohuital on a fishing expedition aboard a seven-meter (24-foot) fiberglass boat in late 2012.
Alvarenga says he endured the 12,500-kilometer (8,000-mile) journey — which ended in the Marshall Islands last Thursday — by eating raw birds and fish as well as drinking turtle blood, his own urine and rainwater.
But Alvarenga has told AFP that his companion, Ezequiel, starved to death after four months because he could not stomach the raw diet and that he had to push his body overboard.
The victim’s family, which lives in the village of El Fortin, said in an interview that he was a healthy 24-year-old man and that they were surprised he was unable to eat. Alvarenga said he believed the man was a teenager.
“I think that when you’re out there, you want to survive. I can’t believe that he refused (to eat),” said his brother, Romeo Cordoba Rios.
Officials in the Marshall Islands said Alvarenga would depart the tiny Pacific nation on Friday for Hawaii, before traveling on to El Salvador or Mexico.
But Ezequiel’s family wants Alvarenga to come explain what happened on what was supposed to be a one-day trip.
“The only thing we want is to know what was the last thing that he told this man and what he did with my brother’s body,” Cordoba Rios said, adding that his mother was “still crying for her son.”
The family, however, does not want a criminal investigation against Alvarenga.
The family said Ezequiel decided at the last minute to join Alvarenga on the fishing trip.
But once out, they were apparently caught by powerful northern winds. Then their engine, their GPS system and their radio broke down.
Eating dog food
In a final radio call, Rodriguez recalled, Alvarenga said: “The swells are more than four meters high. They’re godawful!”
After the pair disappeared, fishermen say they searched for them for four days with the help of a government helicopter to no avail.
This past week, the fishermen were awestruck when they saw images of Alvarenga on their small television with a bushy beard and walking slowly.
He looked stocky despite his struggle to find food in the middle of the ocean, but Rodriguez said Alvarenga was a muscular man before his disappearance.
Experts say it is theoretically possible to survive such a journey, though many have a hard time believing his story.
But not his friends in Chocohuital.
Rodriguez said the boat seen in news footage belongs to the community, with the fishing cooperative’s name and license number.
Fisherman Erick Manuel Velazquez said most in the village have contingency plans in case they get lost at sea, but that Alvarenga had the most unusual preparation.
“This man ate everything. He would even eat dog food,” Velazquez said. “He would tell us: One day, I’ll have to stay at sea.”
Local people believe turtles have magical effects on health, but Alvarenga liked drinking their blood.
“I have tried it, but because I was sick with asthma and when it was over, I stopped drinking it,” Velazquez said.
Guillermina Morales, a woman who runs an eatery, doubted that Alvarenga, who moved to Mexico 15 years ago, had lost his head.
“If he was crazy, he wouldn’t have survived. Here, he acted like an honorable and working man,” she said. “He was also brave.”
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Nick Kimbrell – Avaaz.org
4 févr. (Il y a 2 jours)
Thousands of East Africans have been kidnapped by sadistic gangs, and tortured in Egypt’s Sinai until their families pay huge ransoms for their freedom. If we show Egypt’s leaders that this dirty secret is out and damaging the Sinai’s tourism reputation, we can force them to end the horror. Sign now:
SIGN THE PETITION
Nine months pregnant and in chains, Haben’s* torturers beat her ruthlessly demanding a $35,000 ransom from her husband and sisters. She gave birth in shackles, beside other terrified captives, with only rusty metal to cut the umbilical cord. It’s unbelievable that this is happening in Egypt in 2014!
Amazingly Haben, a young Eritrean refugee, survived — but she is one of thousands of East Africans who have been abducted by criminal trafficking rings, and tortured in Egypt’s Sinai until their desperate families pay huge ransoms for their freedom. If we can show Egypt’s leaders that this dirty secret is out and damaging the Sinai’s tourism reputation as the ‘Red Sea Riviera’, they could stop the horror.
Every hour these men, women and children are in captivity is an hour too long. Sign the urgent petition now and forward it to everyone. When we reach 1 million signers, Avaaz will raise a massive media storm and place hard-hitting ads in key airports, tourist magazines and websites.
It’s an underground economy that runs on the misery of the world’s most vulnerable. Eritreans fleeing oppression at home are kidnapped out of refugee camps, sold to local trafficking gangs, smuggled into the Sinai and repeatedly tortured to extort ransom from families who are forced to listen over the phone. And this despicable torture trade is big business — earning traffickers hundreds of millions of dollars according to a recent report.
The Sinai Peninsula is large and parts are lawless — but the Egyptian government has the power to shut the traffickers down. What they need is the political will to move against these criminal torture gangs. If our community launches a massive global call with hard hitting ads calling out the Sinai’s reputation as the headquarters for the horrific torture trade, the government will be forced to listen.
Torture camps that prey on the suffering and desperation of vulnerable refugees and their families have no place in our world. Sign now to end this horrific trade in human suffering and share as widely as you can.
From breaking the blackout in Syria to fighting violence against women in India, the Avaaz community has fought tirelessly to protect and empower the world’s most vulnerable. If our community acts now, we have a unique opportunity to end the horrific torture trade in Egypt’s Sinai.
Nick, Ari, Antonia, Luis, Alice, Bissan, Wissam and the entire Avaaz team
*Haben is a pseudonym, but her story is real.
Extortionists, smugglers preying on Eritrean refugees, report says (Globe and Mail)
Egypt/Sudan: Refugees face kidnapping for ransom, brutal treatment and human trafficking (Amnesty International)
The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond (EEPA Report)
Thousands of Eritreans ‘abducted to Sinai for ransom’ (BBC)
Egypt’s Sinai: Trafficking, torture and fear (Al Jazeera)