Real-Life Robinson Crusoe Castaway Pedro Serrano Part 1

About the real-life Robinson Crusoe Pedro Serrano, biography and history of the castaway.


The Castaway: Pedro Serrano

Year Marooned: 1528

After many months of bare subsistence on a sandy island off the coast of Peru, Pedro Serrano--a Spanish sailor shipwrecked in the Caribbean in 1528--awoke one morning to find himself plagued by devils. Clearly, there could be no other explanation for the sudden appearance of the two strange creatures who trailed him about the island. The demons of hell had finally arrived, reasoned Serrano, adding one final misery to an already desolate and interminable plight. Serrano fled, after warning his lone island companion--a young boy, also shipwrecked--and crying out for mercy to the good Lord.

The apparitions were not demons; they were sailors recently washed ashore at a nearby shoal. After one look at Serrano, they, too, feared that the devil was occupying this barren cay. After months of thirst, hunger, exposure to the elements, and isolated despair, Pedro Serrano truly looked the part of a demon. His hair and beard were unnaturally long, baked dry like thistles, stiffened and filthy from numerous showers of salt and spray. But upon hearing Serrano's religious plea, the strangers immediately declared their own allegiance to the Christian God. As proof, one of them recited the Apostles' Creed. Serrano rejoiced. He had two additional companions to help him endure the island hardships and to share what small hope of rescue remained.

Unlike Serrano, the newcomers had been the sole survivors aboard their vessel. Serrano's fate, and that of his companions, had been painfully prolonged. Following the shipwreck, Serrano and some of his crew members made their way to shore and existed for nearly two months on cockles, turtles, and seal blood. Unwilling to continue in this manner, half of the survivors fashioned a raft from their ship's wreckage and pushed out to sea with little hope of survival. Serrano stayed behind with a boy and two other men. Within a few days, one of the men began raving. Soon he began eating his own arms, and then he quickly died. A short time later the intense heat from the sun and the harsh living conditions on the island took the life of the other man. Serrano and the boy, fearing that they too would die, hastily worked to insure their mutual survival. They fashioned water basins out of turtle shells and made sealskin-lined storage pits for food and liquids. In addition, they hunted sea cows and birds and burrowed for roots that tasted somewhat like fresh greens. Serrano built a small raft and returned to the scene of the shipwreck, where he dived in search of flint. Successful, he returned to the island. He and the boy could now make fires quickly to alert any passing ships of their presence. However, while many ships sailed near, none were able, or willing, to risk the dangerous coral that barricaded the island.

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