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South Texas Living

Reminiscing: For the ladies: It’s all about the shoes

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
February 29, 2012 | 2,185 views | Post a comment

My cousin, Rosita “Rosie” Villa, passed away recently. Much was said about all the good deeds she did in her 97+ years of life. One thing everyone who knew her remembered about her was her love of high-heeled shoes. At church, someone placed a pair of what I would call chanclas de tacón on the tr’buna close to the casket.

Later, I remembered an article I had saved from the San Antonio Express-News several years ago that was all about chanclas. A certain Michael Quintanilla wrote extensively about the subject. It didn’t quite sit right with me because it wasn’t what I had learned as a young girl. Growing up in our household, a chancla was considered more a woman’s shoe. Mr. Quintanilla was referring to the flip-flops that are so popular now as chanclas. But I grew up way before flip-flops, or thongs, as they were first called, when they were introduced in the sixties, around here anyway. I would buy them for my young girls at Ben Franklin’s. “Mi am’ga Nena” tells me that where she grew up in Mexico, a chancla was an old shoe that was no longer considered suitable for wearing in public. She says that there were no flip-flops at that time there either. Mr. Quintanilla used the term vamos a tirar la chancla as meaning “let’s go dancing.” In my day, we would say vamos a chanclear (not with flip-flops).

One way of distinguishing everyday shoes from dress-up shoes was by saying chanclas de salir. Another observation the author made was how mothers would threaten their kids with chanclazos, what he called a spanking. To me, a spanking has always meant hitting a child on the bottom, which I did plenty of before it became child abuse. If a mother were to hit a child with a flip-flop it would probably be on whatever part of the body was closest. And that reminds me of a story that I once heard. There was this man that came home very late one night after being out drinking. The wife took a chancla to him and went for the head, sending him to the hospital. Now, I don’t think a flip-flop could cause that much damage. It must have been more like the chanclas Rosita wore.

I have never been able to wear flip-flops because they hurt too much. Sometimes I still call them thongs and my grandkids ask, “What’s that, Grandma?”

I do believe flip-flops have a place in the fashion world without going overboard. Mr. Quintanilla wrote that “brides love them.” I haven’t seen one single bride wearing them; and I hope I never do, especially in church.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry.

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