A video of a homeless Colombian woman enjoying a surprise birthday with strangers on the streets of Bogota struck an emotional chord and became an internet sensation.
Emilio Aparicio on Monday surprised Andrea Chaparro in her usual spot on Avenida Jimenez. Aparicio, a photography student, met Chaparro five years ago when he was taking photos for his school thesis.
“I know Andrea because five years ago I began to develop an interest in people that live on the street, I had concerns and a real sensitivity for them [and their position],” Aparicio told Colombia Reports.
“I took pictures but also gave them [the homeless models] a copy, so I began to break down those barriers, which looked very big at first,” explained the young photographer.
In addition to the birthday cake — equipped with a sparkling candle — Aparicio surprised his old friend with a birthday hat, a beautiful print of a photo he had taken of her, and a surprise she will never forget.
“Happy birthday!” Aparicio shouted over Andrea’s squeals of delight. The two shared a long embrace, “mi niño, mi niño,” [my son, my son] Andrea repeated over and over. Emilio then placed a birthday hat upon her head, handed her a balloon, placed a small cake in front of Andrea and asked random strangers nearby if they would join him in singing Andrea happy birthday.
“It was very special with Andrea, I liked that many people helped to sing for her, and for her it was amazing that so many people gave their hands in celebration,” said Aparicio.
Emilio urged Andrea to write a wish on the balloon before releasing it into the air, but she told him she did not know how to write.
“Doesn’t matter,” replied Emilio, who told her to verbalize her wish instead, but Andrea, visibily taken aback, claimed she did not know what to say.
“Doesn’t matter,” Emilio said again.
Upon more urging, Andrea released the balloon and as it floated away she shouted at the top of her lungs, “everyone be happy!”
“Simple things are those that matter most — people are always thinking about having the best car or house, and here was this [homeless] woman who needs food, and affection [but] her one wish was [simply] for everyone to be happy. And I think that desire that [accompanied] the release the balloon was so strong that it is reflected in the number of messages and [the enormous amount of] positive feedback [from] people,” said Aparicio.