You are currently viewing Mafalda: 60 years of an ink and paper icon that never gets old

Although the official date of her birth is September 29, 1964, the story of the eternal Argentine girl started a little earlier: on March 15, 1962, and at the suggestion of the writer and humorist Miguel Brascó, an advertising agency commissioned the cartoonist Joaquín Lavado to make a series of vignettes based on a “type family”: mother, father, son and daughter. The author already signed under the pseudonym of Quino, and the result was the eternal Mafalda. Quino himself remembered it in an interview shortly before he died: “I came from working in magazines like ‘Rico Tipo’, ‘Tía Vicenta’ and they introduced me to the people of the Siam Di Tella company. They were going to bring out a line of appliances under the Mansfield name. So I said to myself Mansfield… Mansfield… Mafalda. Isn’t that a beautiful name? And on March 15, 1962, when she was born, I named her Mafalda”.

The advertising campaign did not materialize in the end, but -with a few collected comics- Quino decided to give life to the story of the girl with black hair, a staunch enemy of the soup. Mafalda’s debut in society was, as was said, in September 1964 in the pages of the weekly Primera Plana of Buenos Aires. The character and her family later moved to the newspaper El Mundo in which the cartoonist published six strips per week.

“He is a person who wonders about the world and the evils that are not corrected. She asks the questions that I still ask myself now as an adult, I wanted to say through her what I saw wrong and had to be corrected, ”confessed the cartoonist once, and pointed out that the soup that the character hated had nothing to do with vegetables , but it was a metaphor about militarism and political imposition.

The reasoning of that rebellious infant, critical of the adult world, capitalism and the mishandling of international politics soon surprised all of Latin America and also traveled to Europe. The first compilation book of the character sold out 5,000 copies in two days in Argentina. In 1969, “Mafalda la Contestataria” was published in Italy, presented by the semiotician Umberto Eco, who argues in favor of a noun that accompanies the name of the character: “If the adjective “contestataria” has been used when trying to define her, it has not been for dressing up in anticonformist fashion at all costs: Mafalda is truly an angry heroine who rejects the world as it is.” The strip was translated into 30 languages ​​and has sold more than 20 million copies in Argentina alone.

“Even today, people keep asking and asking about the Mafalda comic,” says Agustín Castañeda, one of those responsible for Espacio Crumb, a place of reference in La Plata for the universe of comics and comics. “It is an inexhaustible classic of our country”, summarizes Castañeda, and adds: “some take the date of its creation on September 29, which is when the strip officially comes out, but it is true that Quino had already drawn it before for a campaign advertising”.

“Mafalda is an inexhaustible classic”, says Agustín castañeda / C. Santoro

That character and many others from Quino’s imagination earned the cartoonist the Official Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest distinction that the French government grants to a foreigner, and the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities. “Mafalda would say that I am a traitor to my character by going to meet the kings,” he joked days before receiving the award in Spain.

However, in 1973 Quino decided to stop drawing Mafalda. “I was tired of always doing the same thing. The decision even went through marital areas, because my wife was rotten not knowing if we could go to the movies, invite people to dinner or what do I know, because I was up until 10 at night with the strips… It seemed like a good time and I did not imagine that so many years later it would continue to be valid”, he confessed in a self-interview that he published on his website, tired of hearing that question a thousand times.

After his death in the middle of the pandemic, fans of his strokes sold out many of his titles in Buenos Aires bookstores. The first was “Todo Mafalda”, which since then has had two reprints.

Questioning, rebellious and anti-capitalist, Mafalda marked a tour that included the pages of the newspaper El Mundo and the Siete Días seminar but her polysemy was not alone, she was accompanied by her friends Manolito, Felipe, Susanita, Miguelito and Libertad.

His family was made up of his mother (Raquel), a housewife with a past as a pianist, a father who worked in an office and tried to respond to his eldest daughter’s concerns, and Guille, the youngest brother who liked music. soup and loved Brigitte Bardot.

Just as she revered The Beatles, defended democracy, children’s rights and peace, Mafalda reviled soup, weapons and war and was the opposite of Susanita, that girl who dreamed of getting married, having children and was not willing to get uncomfortable or question the rules of the world in which he lived.

“With all the background and universal history of the ‘group of kids’ subgenre behind them – less backpack than road traveled: Nancy’s long hair (our Periquita), María Luz’s brilliance, the Peanuts bar, the tenderness of Little Lulu-, Quino knew how to tell, as always, something else”, wrote Juan Sasturain on the day of the cartoonist’s death. The writer and current director of the National Library assured that day that “even with all the achievements of his absolute masterpiece, Mafalda can also be read as a parenthesis between major concerns, an incursion into history, the criticism of customs and the commentary side of today that was never completely comfortable for the universal Mendoza”.

world passion

Quino’s strip was published throughout Latin America but also in Italy, Spain (during the Franco regime with the legend “For Adults”), France, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and Greece. Also in Taiwan, where pirate editions were found.

The creator

The son of Spanish immigrants, Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón was born in Mendoza on July 17, 1932 and died in the same city on September 30, 2020. He adopted the pseudonym Quino so as not to be confused with his uncle Joaquín, also an illustrator.

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