The gospel according to Mafalda

“It doesn't matter what I think about Mafalda. The important thing is what Mafalda thinks about me ”. So they say Julio Cortázar said one day when he was interviewed about the endearing pacifist, rebellious, beatlemanic and revolutionary girl who, although she was born five and a half decades ago, has always been six years old and is the fruit of the imagination of the Argentine cartoonist Joaquín Lavado "Quino" . The cartoonist, who died this Wednesday, September 30 at the age of 88 in Buenos Aires, transcended immortality with his graphic stories starring Mafalda and her universe, with which, in the effervescence of the 60s, he had the audacity to tell him to the world a few truths.

Those who know Mafalda fully understand the pearl of Cortázar. Between 1964 and 1973, in 1.928 comics, the little rebel gave her opinion on everything and everyone. There was no current issue or human dilemma that was not addressed by her from her childish, feminine and nonconformist perspective, either from the harshness of the frontal, or worse, from even more lacerating metaphors. Her homily was scathing and stark, but, child at last, that did not deprive her of her main quality: tenderness.

To speak of Quino is to speak of Mafalda and vice versa, so if we start with its creator, he was born in the Argentine city of Mendoza on July 17, 1932 into a family of Andalusian immigrants. At 15 he had already lost his mother and father, so he ended up growing up with an uncle who was also his namesake, who was also a painter. With him, he entered a world for which he had been fascinated since he was a child and which was also the perfect escape for an orphaned adolescent: that of the visual arts and drawing. In fact, determined to assume it as a way of life, he undertook formal studies in the discipline but abandoned them shortly after because he felt that he was being forced into academic creation and what he imagined about art was very different.

With that in mind, Quino, 18, moved to Buenos Aires and began looking for work in newspapers and magazines, offering himself as a cartoonist. At 22, in 1954, he managed to publish his first drawing in the magazine This is. Thus he was carving out a more or less modest fame that allowed him to earn a living, and in that plan, living in pensions and trying to provide his bread jumping from graphic humor to political cartoons, a full decade passed until he ran into Mafalda and changed his life. It was 1964.

56 years of "Quinotherapy"

Well, actually, Mafalda's birth at the hands of Quino and his pencils was in XNUMX. It was the year of the first Beatles album; the assassination of John F. Kennedy; the journey into space of the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova; of the speech I have a dream by Martin Luther King; in Argentina the time of the Peronist resistance due to the prohibition of the movement; and in Venezuela of the triumph of Raúl Leoni and of the guerrillas fighting at full blast.

It was also in the year that Quino was offered to draw an advertising campaign for the Mansfield line of appliances. The general framework of the request was simple: tell the story of a middle-class Argentine family with a protagonist whose name should begin with the syllable "Ma". The cartoonist began to scratch papers and for the name he recalled that of one of the characters in the Argentine film Dar la cara, called Mafalda. She would be the main figure in the proposal, which curiously was not the mother of the family, the main user of domestic appliances, but the couple's curious little daughter.

Quino first drew Mafalda in 1963

Luckily for Mafalda, the campaign was never published. The drawings were shelved for a year until, now, in 1964 the author received an offer to publish cartoons in Primera Plana magazine. Looking for what to show them again, he remembered that he had that unpublished material, and thus, on September 29 of that year for the first time, the girl who is today an icon of Argentina together with Maradonna and Gardel, for the first time was in the hands of the reading audience . And, as is often said at this point in epic tales, the rest is history.

The Mafalda strips have been translated into more than 20 languages, and there are approximately 10 books with compilations. The cartoon went from being an editorial phenomenon, and even an artistic one, to enter the social field. There have been commemorative exhibitions in large rooms, in Buenos Aires there are two squares dedicated to honoring her, films have been made, the comic strip has been animated and broadcast on television, it became an educational video game and even her books were included in the National Reading Plan of your native country. Regarding Quino's death, her book Toda Mafalda was circulated mercilessly via WhatsApp and other instant messaging applications, and the fever for her stories, which transcends generations, looks far from extinct.

"Stop the world that I want to get off", one of his most famous attributed phrases, is apocryphal, Quino himself always denounced. “I would never have put that phrase in Mafalda's mouth, because Mafalda doesn't want the world to stop and she to get off. She wants the world to improve ”, Quino quotes the BBC.

Quino achieved world fame thanks to Mafalda's sharpness

However, many other quotes that are genuine from his gospel are tattooed in the hearts of his readership. "It turns out that if one does not rush to change the world, then it is the world that changes one", "Since it is so much trouble to change the structures, can not at least give them a little paint? "," The world is bad, Asia hurts ", are some of her cries.

The Italian writer and philosopher Humberto Eco once commented: "Since our children are preparing to be, by our choice, a multitude of Mafaldas, it will not be unwise to treat Mafalda with the respect that a real character deserves."

Gabriel García Márquez also expressed his opinion about the cartoon: "After reading Mafalda I realized that what brings you closer to happiness is quinotherapy".

His clan reproduces the Argentine stereotypes of the middle class

Rediscovering Mafalda

We already know that she hates soup, that her little brother is named Guille and that the rest of her clan is made up of Manolito, with his dreams of being a millionaire like “Roque Féler”; Susanita, whose highest aspiration is to get married and be a mother; Felipe, the pessimist; Miguelito, the philosophical; Libertad, the most rebellious; and the mascot Burocracia, a turtle that walks as fast as its name implies.

Other not so well known facts about Mafalda are the allegories that he makes to the real life of Quino and his environment. For example, if they actually existed, the girl and her creator would be neighbors since they both lived in buildings in the San Telmo sector of Buenos Aires, where today a sculptural installation with the girl and two of her friends is a place of pilgrimage for fans. of all the world.

Also that Felipe's character is traced to that of Quino's friend, the Prensa Latina journalist Jorge Tinossi. So obvious was the resemblance that the cartoonist did not have to say anything to him for the aforementioned to notice. When he saw the cartoon, from Chile, where he lived, Timossi sent a letter to Quino that only said "Confess, son of a bitch", a letter that the cartoonist only replied with another phrase, uttered by the character of Felipito "Just to me I had to be me ”.

Quino achieved world fame thanks to Mafalda's sharpness

Another aspect that only the scholars in Mafalda know are its allegories. For example, the girl's aversion to soup is a metaphor that speaks of Quino's aversion to militarism. The cartoon was born in the worst repressive time for Argentina, for much of Latin America and even for Spain, with Francisco Franco in power. “I was born with self-censorship,” said Quino himself, who providentially stopped drawing Mafalda three years before the 1976 coup, which was part of the Condor Plan, with which the United States installed lackey governments on the continent to shield submission. of the region in the framework of the cold war. Argentina was touched by the dark military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, against which Quino decided to go into exile in Italy.

In fact, questioned about his predictions regarding an adult Mafalda, Quino used to say that he would never have reached such an age because Mafalda, given her rebellion, would have been one of the thousands of disappeared by state terrorism.

In Europe Quino continued drawing. XNUMX are his books Yo que ustedy¡No me grite!. Ni arte ni parte(1981), Gente en su sitio (1986), Potentes, prepotentes e impotentes(1989), Yo no fui (1994), La aventura de comer (2007) y ¿Quién anda ahí? (2012).

But none of his works surpassed Mafalda in fame, of whom there were no new vignettes. That didn't matter because the existing ones were enough to immortalize both equally extraordinary characters: the cartoonist and his drawing, the artist and his alter ego, the father and the daughter (In this story, who needs a holy spirit?).

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