The Many Uses of Chanclas

For those who don’t know, “chanclas” are house sandals in most Latin American homes, (those are my husband’s favorite pair pictured at left.) Most Latinos I’ve met wear them in the house at all times, (quite often with socks, even in the summer.) Suegra still finds my tendency to be barefoot quite abnormal but maybe it’s the difference between growing up with a dirt floor as she did, and wall-to-wall carpet as I did – that’s the most logical reason I can come up with for chancla cultures versus non-chancla cultures.

If you already know what “chanclas” are, you may be rubbing your nalgas which are stinging with memories, because you know that chanclas are quite versatile. Here are some of their many uses.

The Many Uses of Chanclas

* disciplinary device – When an Anglo kid see’s their parent reaching for their feet, they might assume their mother or father is simply removing their sandals and nothing more, pero niños Latinos make a run for their bedroom (¡Corre! ¡Corre!) and start apologizing, “I’m sorry! I won’t do it again!”

* fly swatter – I hear it multiple times per week in the summertime: “There’s a fly in the house! Get a chancla!” … Maybe my husband and kids are weird, but they go fly hunting. They wait until it goes into a bedroom and then the commotion starts, “She’s in your room! Close the door! Quick!” (For some reason my husband always refers to flies as “she”. I guess because the word for fly, “mosca”, is feminine.) … Sometimes the hunt can go on for a good 20 minutes. I’ll hear the chancla hit the wall with varying degrees of force. Sometimes the fly’s escape will be blamed on one of the children, (“You were in my way! I almost got it that time! Move!) and finally, the much awaited killing occurs with much celebration.

* hammer – Not for real home improvement jobs, pero, it’s good for a quick fix when a baseboard is loose.

* weapon/home security – Hear a noise downstairs in the middle of the night? Carry your chancla high in the air as you walk into the darkness, ready to sandal slap a ladrón. (This will only work against softer criminals, perhaps a Latino who has been traumatized by the chancla as a child and knows its power. For more hardcore criminals we have a baseball bat and machete as back up.)

* cobweb remover – Gets those hard to reach spots on the ceiling.

* door stopper – Not advised if you have a dog that likes to escape.

* foot covering – But only when it’s not being used for something else, of course.


  1. I wear socks even in the heat of summer as well…. and my “crocs” or “holey” clogs are great for tromping around the cold floors without the slipping hazards of fuzzy socks. I’m just not comfortable barefoot and I hate having dirty feet SO MUCH!

    I never would have guessed that there was anyone else that did that let alone whole cultures!…. I thought I was the only one ;)

  2. oh ya, and the flip flops being hucked the heads of misbehaving kids…. I’ve seen it happen in the ango-est of anglo families too! Also paperback novels, spoons, even a pen…. when my dad was on the phone on a business call, he needed a projectile to shut us girls up sometimes!

    • LOL – You must be part Latina-ish then ;) … Growing up, I can probably count on both hands how many times I was spanked and it was almost always with a bare hand. (Though at some point my Mom took to threatening with a wooden spoon because she had carpal tunnel syndrome and it hurt her hand to spank us. LOL.)

      • nope, not a drop of anything remotely latino (I WISH!) 75% British, 25% Crotian. I burn on a cloudy day and my skin is so white it’s transperent… not even a drop of melanin to help ward off the sun.
        So I seem to have come by the chancla phenomenon on my own.
        (Beware the wooden spoon!)

  3. I am like you, I have always loved go barefoot, but since I was little into my adulthood I always heard my parents say “Ponte los zapatos o te va entrar frio por los pies y te vas a enfermar” I never knew exactly what that meant.

    I only use my chanclas when I have to sweep, mop and “discipline”.

    • My Suegra believes these sorts of things, too. She is very strange about cold/hot temperatures. For one thing, she doesn’t like to put her hand into the freezer because she thinks it can make her sick.

      • I had to resort to the vebarl chancleta and the stare of ice chancletasos with mine. They’re lucky they grew up without cinto marks on their behinds but some days they sure earned the right to have them. They were BAD. LOL. They grew up ok though even without a chancletaso or two.

  4. What if the so called soft Latino ladrón is armed with another chancla more powerful? Than what? ¿Se agarran a chanclazos o what? A ver quien gana o a ver quien corre primero… LOL.

    How to know if the fly is a male o female: That’s easy, just pay attention, you normally find female flies standing on the phone and the male flies standing on the TV remote control or on top of the beer cans.

    “La Chancla” is a Mexican song también:

    “La Chancla que yo tiro no la vuelvo a levantar” That’s what the song talks about.

  5. @ El Cuty – I never thought about if the ladrón is armed also with a chancla…You’re putting too many funny images in my head!

    Oh my gosh, a mariachi song called La Chancla? No manches! … I thought you were joking until I clicked the link. This one is new to me!

  6. “even with socks”

    Funny. A couple of years ago a big group of us went to Hawaii on vacation. My cousin insisted on wearing socks and chanclas to the beach! He would walk right down from the hotel. Knee high socks and chanclas!!!

    Thanks for the reminder and the laughs!

  7. I’m always amazed when I watch American shows and the people in them always wear their shoes in the house. In Canada, we always take the shoes off. Most people wear slippers or just socks on their feet. I’m barefoot most of the time.

  8. Yep, I agree the Chancla is a “multi-usos” item. Works much better tha Raid when it comes to kill a cuca o mosca (here you go, chanclas are even environmentaly friendly /green!!).

  9. Haha. Yes, I love the multi use of the chancla. It’s always weird when I go to peoples houses who insist everyone remove their shoes. That’s just not the way us Latinos do it!

    • See, I like to be barefoot at home, but I also don’t feel comfortable removing my shoes at other people’s houses unless I know them well. I used to have quite a few Korean friends and they always had “guest sandals” at the front door. You had to remove your street shoes and put on the slippers/sandals that were for use inside the house. That made sense to me and I think that if I ever replace the carpets in our house, I might try that. It would keep people from tracking germs in and I bet the carpets would last a lot longer.

  10. Soy un gringo pero vivo en San Diego and this just made me roll on the floor laughing. It brings back so many hilarious memories of growing up with my crazy extended family Mexican next door neighbors :)

    • Michael – thanks for showing this older post some love. I had forgotten about it. So glad you stumbled upon it and enjoyed it.

      Saludos to you and your Mexican neighbors, wherever they are now :)

  11. It’s funny, Chinese have a thing with sandals indoors as well. French do, mind you, because these old wooden floors give you splinters!

    Chinese often keep several pairs at the door of the kitchen, the bathroom etc. and you switch pairs upon entering.

  12. lol my son’s babysitter wears chanclas all over her house… i may be latina.. but definatly have adapted to american ways… i go barefoot even outside to get stuff out of my car lmao

  13. Cracks me up! I love it cause some of those have happened in my house! :) Doesn’t everyone wear house slippers?

    I LOVE the new blog look :)

  14. Oh I love it! This is so much fun … and my husband has a pair of these though he never wears them inside. Come to think of it, I’m trying to think of when he DOES wear them. Maybe he was Latino in a previous life?

  15. Coming over from Patty’s and this is too funny. I’m a barefoot kind of girl, but my mom always wears shoes inside. Except hers are more shoe-like than slipper-like, but they are her indoor shoes. I think she must have some Latina blood in her, especially when you see her, she is so not pale like me. ;) Great post, thanks for the chuckles!

  16. Abuelita (great grandma cause just the regular granda is momo)lol always wore little blue ones with her lita house and man her chanclas were epic, she could hit you in other rooms she was like a silver hair

  17. I received my share of CHANCLASOS throughout the years growing up for being un trabieso Do a write up on Guaraches, the ones you wear like Chanclas, but with leather straps and tire threads on the bottom, I have some interesting stories about that too. They now invented a Guarache that you eat like a taco,tostada,mulita,burrito and so on, but it is shaped like a Guarache. They taste good too…

  18. Too funny! My husband has a few pairs of chanclas laying around. Even after a few years he doesnt understand how I can walk around the house barefoot when its -10℉! And now our son gets the warning when my husband slaps them against his hand with a “pow-pow!” :)

  19. Uau! You make me laugh to tears, jajajajaja.
    I’m from Argentina, we don´t use chanclas, we use alpargatas (from gauchos), but with the same uses, jajajaa. Los argentinos somos los raros de latinoamérica, we are most like european, but we are always walking in that narrow line between french, spanish or italian manners and the latinamerican passion and emotions. Thats why we are so messy, jajajajaja!
    Your blog es GREAT, so clever and funny!!! Thanks a lot!

  20. El “pow pow” tiene un lado oscuro.

    Hace quince años un director escolar canadiense fue pillado por posesión de pornografía infantil. Específicamente, coleccionaba fotos y vídeos en que niños recibían nalgadas. Da la casualidad de que él le había dado nalgadas a varios estudiantes durante su carrera.

    En 2002, el FBI trinquó una red de pornografía con tema de dar nalgadas a los niños. Algunos miembros incluso hicieron películas usando a sus propios hijos, quienes se podían oír llorosamente declarar su inocencia.

    Pues, no es ninguna noticia que las nalgadas pueden adquirir connotaciones sexuales, como puede afirmar cualquiera que haya visto “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Si dudas esto, hay solamente que teclar la palabra “azotaina” o “nalgadas” en Google para ver qué tipo de resultados tendrás. Y puesto que hay personas que son atraídas sexualmente a los niños, es lógico que algunas gozarían de darles nalgadas.

    Aún así y trágicamente para muchos víctimas, la sociedad por lo general ha dejado de reconocer el potencial de abuso sexual a través de las nalgadas proporcionadas a niños, adoloscentes o hasta a los adultos jovenes. Frecuentemente los agresores desvían sospechas solo con una invocacion de “la disciplina.”

    Ya es hora que nos concienciemos de este problema. Se puede aprender más a o a

    • Gracias, Tom, por compartir esta información. Muy triste pero importante reconocer “el lado oscuro” como dijiste.

  21. I am dying laughing. I have these same exact Nike slippers. My mom rags on me for wearing them because she thinks they are so out of style. My Mexican friends talked about chanclas, so I did a google search and I found your hysterical article! Sooooo funny!

  22. mi dah
    I am from the south Bronx and I grew up in the 50′ and 60’s. Chancletas at that time was the reference used for little girls heels. You know the plastic Barbie ones that click when you walk. Any body else remember it that way ..?
    “Aye que Linda…..Ella chancletas!! Aye dios mio!!!!

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