The Argentine cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado (born 1932), who is best known under his pen name Quino, is the creator of “Mafalda,” perhaps the bestknown comic strip in the Spanish-speaking world. Since discontinuing that strip in 1973, Lavado has continued to entertain fans in numerous other cartoons and satirical drawings.
Even decades after her creation, Joaquín Salvador Lavado's comic-book character Mafalda remains a familiar figure in Latin America, having been chosen among the ten most influential Argentine women of the 20th century. The six-year-old Mafalda is idealistic and hopes for a better world. She is unmistakably a child, yet her life—and those of the other characters in Lavado's “Mafalda” comic strip—reflect adult concerns. “Mafalda” has been compared to the American comic strip “Peanuts,” which directly influenced it. Yet it is darker than Peanuts and more concerned with social and political satire; Quino lived mostly under a military dictatorship, and one of the most notable features of his work has been his ability to make political points that, while instantly recognized by readers, do not antagonize the governments they address. Although Quino focused “Mafalda” on specifically Argentine themes, the strip's humor is for the most part universal. In one strip, Mafalda hears a radio broadcast saying that the Roman Catholic pope has made a call for peace, and she answers (as translated in The Munich Eye), “The phone was busy as always, right?”
Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejôn was born in Mendoza, Argentina, on July 17, 1932. He earned the nickname “Quino” in childhood as a way to distinguish him from his uncle Joaquín Tejôn. It has served him well as a professional name; many cartoonists in Spanish-speaking countries publish their work under a single name. Uncle Joaquín was a painter and he inspired the young boy to follow an artistic career.
Although a lifelong resident of Argentina, the man known as Quino experienced a childhood indirectly shaped by the Spanish civil war of the 1930s; his parents were immigrants from Spain's Andalusia region and they supported the democratic government that lost that war. In an autobiography posted on his website, Quino explained that, “Para intentar deshacer el embrollo, el pequeño Quino se pone a dibujar, en silencio” (“To try to undo the mess, the little Quino began to draw, in silence”).
In 1945 Quino enrolled at Mendoza's School of Fine Arts. That same year, his mother died, and his father followed her in death in 1948. After several years of study, according to Saman Rooeintan in Silent Satire, Quino was “tired of drawing vases and plaster.” He withdrew from school and decided to become a cartoonist. In 1950 he sold a drawing to a local silk shop but otherwise had little success; he traveled to the capital of Buenos Aires and visited every newspaper in the city to offer them his cartoons, but he found no takers. Quino then served for a year in the Argentine army, resuming his goal after leaving military service. He then moved to Buenos Aires, determined to give cartooning another try. For several years he struggled, but in 1954 the weekly newspaper Esto Es published one of his cartoons. Quino remembered the moment when he received the news as the happiest of his entire life.
A move through one door quickly opened others for the young cartoonist: he now sold his graphics to several Argentine magazines and newspapers, including, in 1957, Rico Tipo, a periodical that had fueled his childhood dream of becoming an artist. Publications across Latin America as well as in Spain now began to take notice of his work and his readership grew to the point that a book-length collection of his early cartoons, Mundo Quino, was issued in 1963. Quino's financial situation improved even more when he was hired to create graphics for advertisements. In 1960, he married Alicia Colombo, and during a honeymoon in Brazil, he met several designers and publishers. One of these meetings led to an assignment to create drawings of a family for an advertising campaign for a Brazilian appliance chain called Mansfield.
Casting about for ideas for his new assignment, Quino purchased several collections of “Peanuts” cartoons, thinking that he could adapt their creative energy and approach in his art for the ad campaign. (“Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz, in turn, would later praise Quino's work in strong terms.) Although his ads were never used, Quino kept the drawings and, a year later, submitted some of them to Primera Plana, a magazine where he knew an editor.
On September 29, 1964, Quino's “Mafalda” comic strip was born. At first it ran weekly in Primera Plana, but it was soon picked up for publication six days a week in the newspaper El Mundo. The first of 13 books collecting “Mafalda” comic strips appeared in 1966. When El Mundo was shuttered at the end of 1967, Quino's work was quickly picked up by the weekly Siete Días. “Mafalda” books were released in translated editions and appeared in several European countries, but Quino's work faced censorship in fascist Spain, where they were marked “only for adults” due to their content.
Quino's character Mafalda is a little girl with a strong sense of the world around her, a healthy attitude of skepticism, and an optimistic view of the future. She has a pet turtle that she has named Bureaucracy because it moves so slowly. She wants to work for the United Nations when she grows up, and she likes the music of the Beatles and “Woody Woodpecker” cartoons. She goes to the park to play cowboy games with her friends, an assortment of characters for which Quino drew on his own personality as well as those of several acquaintances. Mafalda supports human rights and democracy, and she dislikes war, racism, environmental degradation (in an age when activism of that kind was in its infancy), and injustice.
Above all, though, Mafalda dislikes soup, and Quino's strips focusing on this theme convey the flavor of the “Mafalda” series as a whole. “The soup had a political meaning; it was the governments that one has to swallow daily, especially in the dictatorship era in Latin America; it was really an allegory about that,” the cartoonist explained to Erika P. Bucio for the Mexico City newspaper Reforma. Despite their deeper meaning, Quino's soup gags worked well as innocent portrayals of a childhood quirk and, despite the political content underlying many “Mafalda” strips, its creator avoided running afoul of Argentina's military government. In 1976, however, the Argentine military government began its so-called Dirty War against dissidents, during which thousands of Argentines were imprisoned, tortured, or killed. At this point, Quino and his wife moved to Milan, Italy. He returned to Argentina after the fall of the military junta in 1983 and has continued to divide his time between Italy and Argentina.
In 1973, tired of the pressures of producing six strips a week, Quino brought “Mafalda” to a close. The strip's renown hardly suffered, however, due to the translated editions being published around the world. Quino learned from a girl at a Buenos Aires book fair that his comic was popular in China, where it circulated in pirated editions; he managed to have these replaced by authorized versions, which were censored by the Chinese government to remove any negative references to China.
Among the numerous awards and honors bestowed upon Quino is the establishment, in 1994, of a Mafalda Plaza in Buenos Aires featuring benches inscribed with familiar Mafalda quotations; two Mafalda murals also appear in a station of the Buenos Aires subway. In 1977 the cartoonist received a Golden Palm award at the International Humor Exhibition in Bordighera, Italy, and in 2014 he received Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities. Quino is also the recipient of a B'nai B'rith Human Rights Award and was named Honorary Professor of Humor at Spain's University of Alcalá de Henares.
Since ending his popular comic strip, Quino has occasionally revisited “Mafalda,” notably for publications connected with the International Edition of the World Campaign for the Declaration of Children's Rights issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the late 1970s. He has continued to publish Sunday cartoons in the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín into old age, and many new books collecting the strips have been released. Often these collected editions center on a single theme, such as the contemporary mania for gastronomy in La aventura de comer (“The Adventure of Eating,”2007). In 1986 an English-language collection, The World of Quino, was released in the United States, and the first book-length publication of the collected “Mafalda” strips, Toda Mafalda (“All Mafalda”), appeared in 1993.
Guardian (London, England), Eulalia Furriol, “Hola, soy Mafalda,” p. 14.
Reforma (Mexico City, Mexico), December 12, 2007, Erika P. Bucio, interview with Quino, p. 9.
Buenos Aires Herald, http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/160008/mafaldas-creator-quino-wins-prince-of-asturiasaward- (November 15, 2017), “Mafalda's Creator ‘Quino’ Wins Prince of Asturias Award.”
Lambiek Comiclopedia, https://www.lambiek.net/artists/q/quino.htm (November 15, 2017), “Quino.”
Munich Eye, http://themunicheye.com/news/Mafalda,-a-50-years-old-little-girl–2890 (November 15, 2017), “Mafalda: A 50 Years Old Little Girl.”
Norman Rockwell Museum, https://www.nrm.org/2013/03/new-perspectives-on-illustration-mafalda-and-peanuts-by-valeria-molinari/ (March 1, 2013), Valeria Molinari, “Mafalda and Peanuts.”
Quino Official Website, http://www.quino.com.ar/biografia/ (November 15, 2017).
UNESCO Courier, https://web.archive.org/web/20090623061630/http://www.unesco.org/courier/2000_07/uk/dires.htm (November 15, 2017), Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, “Quino, on the Funny Side of Freedom.”□