Happy birthday Quino! Thank you for bringing us Mafalda, our best friend ever

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Mafalda, Quino’s most well-known creation, sits in a bench in Argentina. 

By CONZ PRETI

You might not know who Joaquin Salvador Lavado is. You might not be familiar with his nickname “Quino” either. But I’m sure that at some point of your life you’ve bumped into his creation, Mafalda (not to be confused with the Hogwarts witch).

Today is Quino’s 80th birthday and we wanted to thank him for having drawn a friend with which many of us grew up.

Born in the province of Mendoza, Argentina, in 1932, Quino was given his nickname to differentiate him from other members of his family. In 1945, soon after finishing high school, Quino enrolled into college to learn how to draw. He begun traveling back and forth to Buenos Aires trying to get his cartoons published in newspapers, but to little success.

In 1963, his first book of comics, Mundo Quino, was published. An advertising company was looking for a cartoonist to create a strip for a home appliances brand called Mansfield.

The strip had to be a mix between Blondie and Peanuts and the characters’ names had to begin with the brand’s letters. Quino created Mafalda and her friends, and although the ad campaign never took off, Quino begun the adventures of this little girl.

The comic ran in different newspapers from 1964 to 1973 and was translated into more than 30 languages. When Quino was asked why he thought Mafalda wasn’t that popular in English-speaking countries his response was that she was “too Latin American.

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Mafalda was famous for making her parents uncomfortable. (Photo: Facebook.com/rosananunez)

So who is this girl Mafalda? She is an Argentine six year-old girl who lives with her parents and her little brother Guille, hates soup more than anything and is profoundly concerned about the state of humanity. When she’s not asking her parents philosophical questions that leave them scratching their heads for answers, she hangs out with her neighborhood friends: Manolito, Felipe, Susanita, Libertad, Muriel and Miguelito. Each character has a very distinct personality and represents different stereotypes of the Argentine society

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A typical Mafalda phrase scribbled on a wall in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo: facebook.com/JerryMarcial)

On a personal level Mafalda was my role model in many ways.

I was born in Argentina and at the age of 5 my family moved to Colombia. My parents bought me all of Quino’s books for me to stay in touch with my culture, but it did much more than that. In school my nickname was Mafalda, I had the same short hair and came from the same city. At home, I questioned my parents about everything, but especially about the difference between the cities we had lived in.

I pretty much learned to read with those books, and needless to say I was extremely disappointed when I finished them all. I begged my parents to buy me more, but Quino had stopped drawing Mafalda a long time ago.

When I was about 8 years old, my parents took me to Bogota’s book fair knowing that Quino was going to be there signing books. I had no clue and was starstruck when my dad pointed at the cartoonist and said he was the creator of my favorite character. I stood in silence while he autographed my book.

My dad poked me to ask him what I had been bothering them with for so long. I was quiet. Quino noticed, he kneeled down next to me and asked what I wanted to know. “Why did you stop drawing her?” I said shyly. “Well, Mafalda had to grow up, you know? Just like you are growing up,” Quino answered. “She would’ve been and ordinary girl playing games in her computer and watching TV, and I didn’t want that for her.” He stood up, patted my head and continued entertaining other kids.

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Mafalda’s messages have a universal appeal. (Photo: Facebook.com/Carlos Sanchez)

In a recent interview with El Comercio, Quino reaffirmed that he was not going to revive his most popular character. “At that time my nephews were small and I knew what would interest them, what questions they had,” Quino told the newspaper. “But now I have no clue what a kid thinks. So, how can I revive her? I have no idea how to do so.” 

(Main Photo: LUCYASTV