Eternal Mafalda

Arts and Media June 2023 PREMIUM
On September 20, 2020, Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, one of the most iconic Latin American cartoonists, left us.

Best known as Quino, he created Mafalda, his most popular character that gained widespread recognition and that many generations have grown up hand in hand with.

Born as a character for a publicity campaign for SIAM, Mafalda took her name from the product Manfield, which started with the letter "m". Neither the product nor the campaign went through, so Quino kept the 12 strips he had created. Luckily for all of us, Primera Plana magazine published Mafalda’s first comic strip on September 29, 1964, in Buenos Aires.  In 1969, Mafalda arrived in Europe - in Spain - thanks to Umberto Eco, who called her an “angry heroine”. Since then, her popularity has never decreased, and the comic strips have been translated into 26 languages worldwide.

Quino created a typical family, mixing the popular American comics Blondie and Peanuts. He believed that Schulz – the creator of Peanuts - had brought a big change to the comic strip industry. Until then, the characters had had only one characteristic, but Schulz amalgamated likable, unlikeable, good, bad, and jealous characters, which, as Quino put it, was a revolution. Quino took quite a bit from Schulz and made a very Argentine adaptation. There is also a strong association with another American comic strip, Nancy, begun by Ernie Bushmiller in 1940. Quino himself recognized the resemblance. In strip 933, for instance, Mafalda highlights her connection to Nancy, while in other strips, her room shows posters of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

In all the Mafalda series, Quino portrayed the world of adults -with its societal norms and contradictions- through the eyes of a group of well-developed children with distinct personalities and Mafalda as their leader. Through humor, satire, and powerful, effective illustrations, he highlights the absurdities of society and provokes reflections among his readers on a wide range of issues such as politics, consumerism, education, human rights, the environment and social justice, themes that resonate with people across different cultures and generations, allowing the comic strip to remain relatable and engaging.

Thus, Mafalda was conceived as an inquisitive, ironic, and witty six-year-old girl, the most carefully manufactured character, as Quino said, who, in the first strips, appeared only with her mom and dad as part of a typical urban family. She would ask them questions that they did not know how to answer. With an outspoken character, she shows a strong personality and represents the voice of reason and innocence, challenging the status quo. Through this character that loves the Beatles and hates soup, Quino raises awareness and encourages social consciousness, imbuing her with a timeless quality.

Raquel, the mother, is trapped in household chores, with an existence confined within the walls of her home. On the rare occasions when she goes out, it is for grocery shopping. For her, being a housewife is a purpose in itself. Although Mafalda condemns these facts, she never suggests an alternative for her mother.

Alberto, the father, harbors a fear of reality, struggling to overcome obstacles and challenges with great difficulty. Like a mere piece in the puzzle, he leads a simple life that consists only of their apartment and corporate life in his office. He is comfortable with the existing system; thus, he refrains from questioning it and refuses to share some responsibility for social injustice.

Manolito, the vendor’s son, is the openly profit-driven member of the group. Although he is rather obtuse, he has remarkable business acumen. Quino actually celebrates his self-assurance, as he is the only one who knows what he wants to be. He takes on the role of proclaiming the capitalist ideology and becomes a relevant element to contrast Mafalda’s critical mindset.

Susanita embodies all cliches and represents the bourgeois model for women. She is an arriviste, somewhat arrogant, who embraces and validates the status quo.

Felipe, the dreamer, is Mafalda’s toothy companion who embodies innocence and naivety. As Mafalda’s insecure and loyal friend, his childlike curiosity and tendency to daydream offer a light-hearted and sometimes comical perspective of the world.

Miguelito, the grandson of a Mussolini fan, is another of Mafalda’s friends. As Felipe’s alter ego, he is inquisitive, pragmatic, intellectual, and self-confident. While Mafalda reacts to the world’s issues with a mix of humor and frustration, Miguelito approaches them with a more analytical and serious approach.

Libertad, the unorthodox of the group, is the daughter of an educated young couple -her mother is a French translator. She makes sporadic appearances with assertive remarks in Quino’s final installments.

Guille, Mafalda’s little brother, is a mischievous and playful child addicted to the pacifier and less concerned with the world’s issues compared to the other characters. His carefree nature offers a balance to the deeper themes explored in the series. He is the only one that grows up in the series.

Muriel, Felipe’s platonic love.

Bureaucracy, Mafalda’s pet tortoise.

Quino stopped drawing Mafalda in 1973. However, she still enjoys popularity and enduring appeal as she addresses atemporal and complex ideas simply and humorously. She has become an iconic figure, representing youthful idealism, social consciousness, and a desire for a better world.

Página oficial de Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón

Quino, el “padre” de la inconformista Mafalda

L’HOESTE, H. D. F. (1998). From Mafalda to Boogie: The City and Argentine Humor. In E. P. Bueno & T. Caesar (Eds.), Imagination Beyond Nation: Latin American Popular Culture (pp. 81–106). University of Pittsburgh Press.

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