June 18, 2024

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican mother bravely shielded her son after a bear leapt on a picnic table and devoured the tacos and enchiladas meant for the boy’s birthday dinner, inches from his face.

Silvia Macías of Mexico City had traveled to the Chipinque Park in the northern city of Monterrey to celebrate the 15th birthday of her son, Santiago, who has Down syndrome.

Soon after they sat down to eat the food they had brought, the bear showed up and gulped down french fries, enchiladas, tacos and salsa. A video shot by her friend, Angela Chapa, shows Macías sitting stoically, inches from the bear’s mouth, holding Santiago and shielding his eyes with her hand. She kept her eyes downcast, to avoid anything the bear might consider a challenge.

“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.”

“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.

Macías said that she and Chapa had previously thought about the possibility of a bear encounter — they are not unknown in the park, though usually the bears come out more toward dawn or dusk, not midday — and they had come up with a plan.

“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.”

Asked if he had been scared, Santiago, who attends middle school in Mexico City, said “yes, a lot.”

Their resourceful friend Angela, who filmed the scene, lives in Monterrey and knew the proper behavior for a black bear encounter: never run.

She noticed a plate of enchiladas the bear had not eaten — the bear appeared to prefer french fries, and as a true Mexican, had eaten the salsa — and she tossed the enchilada far away, after showing it to the animal. As expected, the animal followed the food and Angela stood in front of the bear, shielding Macías and her son and allowing them to retreat quietly and slowly.

Eventually, the bear went away.

Santiago got his birthday tacos replaced, and all ended well.

Macías says she doesn’t consider herself a hero.

“I just think I’m a mother who protected her cub,” she said.

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