Roberto Canessa

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Roberto Canessa, M.D.
Roberto Canessa.jpg
Roberto Canessa in 1974.
Born Roberto Jorge Canessa Urta
(1953-01-17) 17 January 1953 (age 65)
Montevideo, Uruguay
Nationality  Uruguayan
Occupation Physician, Politician
Spouse(s) Laura Surraco
Children Hilario, Roberto Martín and Laura Inés
Parrado (left) and Canessa with Chilean Huaso Sergio Catalan.

Roberto Jorge Canessa Urta, M.D., (born 17 January 1953[1]) is one of the 16 survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed in the Andes mountains on 13 October 1972, and a Uruguayan political figure. He was portrayed by Josh Hamilton in the 1993 feature film, Alive.

13 October 1972 air crash[edit]

At the time of the accident, Canessa was a 19-year-old medical student. His fianceé was Laura Surraco, the daughter of a doctor. He graduated from the Stella Maris College (Montevideo) and played for their alumni rugby team, Old Christians Club. Between 1971 and 1979, he played eight matches with the Uruguay national rugby union team, and was also selected in 1980, for the South American Jaguars tour of South Africa.

It was Canessa who suggested to his fellow survivors that in order to stay alive,[2] they should eat the flesh of the deceased victims of the crash. Together with Fernando Parrado, he spent 10 days trekking through the Andes in search of help for the survivors.

Post rescue[edit]

After the rescue, Canessa recounted how his drive to escape from the mountains was fueled by the thought of his mother and his girlfriend. He later married Laura Surraco, and they had two sons and a daughter. He works as a cardio thoracic surgeon and motivational speaker.[1]

Candidate for President of Uruguay[edit]

Canessa was a candidate in the 1994 Uruguayan presidential elections but he failed to gain public support. Canessa obtained only 0.08%[3] of the vote, lagging far behind former President, Julio María Sanguinetti, whose party returned to power with 30.83% of the public vote.


On 1 March 2016, Roberto, along with Pablo Vierci, published the book "I had to Survive"(ISBN 978-1476765440) in which he tells the story of how he overcame adversity to become a prominent Pediatric Cardiologist.


During an interview made at CNN en Español, Canessa expressed that he wanted to help the survivors of the tragedy of Chapecoense on Medellín, Colombia.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Roberto Canessa Official Webpage". Dr. Canessa. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  2. ^ Useem, Michael (2009-03-24). The Go Point: When It's Time to Decide--Knowing What to Do and When to Do It. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-1-4000-8299-5. Retrieved 5 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "Elecciones nacionales de 1994" (in Spanish). Corte Electoral del Uruguay. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Sobreviviente del 'Milagro de los Andes': "La vida es como viene, no como uno quiere"".