MEXICO CITY (AP) — A mother traveled to the Chipinque Park on the outskirts of the northern Mexican city of Monterrey to celebrate the 15th birthday of her son who has Down syndrome. Silvia Macías of Mexico City bravely shielded Santiago after a bear leaped onto a picnic table and devoured the tacos and enchiladas meant for his birthday dinner, inches from his face.
Soon after they sat down to eat the food they had brought, the bear showed up to gulp down french fries, tacos, and salsa. Video shot by Angela Chapa, a friend of Macías, shows her sitting stoically, holding Santiago, and shielding his eyes with her hand. She sat still and steadfastly avoided eye contact in case the bear might consider it a challenge or threat.
Macías said that she and Chapa had previously thought about the possibility of a bear encounter and had a plan. Bears are not unknown in the park, though usually they come out more toward dawn or dusk instead of midday. “We are going to play a game where we cover Santiago’s eyes and we are going to act like statues,” she recalled rehearsing the plan.
And that is exactly what they did: Santiago remained motionless, even though “the bear was very close to us, we heard him as he growled, as he ate, you could smell the bear. It was really very very close.”
“The worst thing was that Santiago might get scared,” Macías recalled Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “Santiago is very afraid of animals—a cat or a dog, any animal scares him a lot.”
Asked if he had been scared, Santiago, who attends middle school in Mexico City, said “Yes, a lot.”
“That’s why I covered his eyes, because I didn’t want him to see it and scream or run. I was afraid that if he got scared or screamed or scared the bear, that the bear would react,” she said of the incident Monday.
Chapa, their resourceful friend who filmed the scene, lives in Monterrey and knew that running is never the proper behavior for a black bear encounter. She noticed a plate of enchiladas that the bear had not eaten, showed it to the animal, and she tossed it far away. Even though the bear seemed to prefer french fries—and as a true Mexican, had eaten all the salsa—as expected, it followed the food.
Chapa stood in front of the bear, shielding Macías and her son and letting them retreat quietly and slowly. Eventually, the bear went away. In the end, Santiago got his birthday tacos replaced, and all was well.
Macías says she doesn’t consider herself a hero. “I just think I’m a mother who protected her cub,” she said.