Mafalda 60: Child of Revolution | Rock & Art

Mafalda is the fruit of revolution. She was created in the early 1960s by the Argentinean cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, better known by his pen name Quino. Inspired by the sexual revolution movement, she was initially meant to be a part of a family advertisement for the electro-domestic company Mansfield. There were only two conditions: Mansfield appliances must be featured, and the characters’ names must start with the letter ‘M’.

However, the project was cancelled. She was then offered to Clarín, an Argentina-based newspaper with the highest circulation among Spanish speakers. After establishing the contract, the paper realised it was part of a marketing strategy. She officially debuted in 1964 in the Argentine literary magazine Leoplán.

Mafalda and Quino

Her name wasn’t just a part of the deal. Mafalda was named after a character with the same name in Dar La Cara by the Argentine writer and historian David Viñas. It was also a reference to the tragic Italian princess Mafalda of Savoy. Following Mussolini’s removal in 1943, the King of Italy returned to the throne and sought an armistice. His princess, who was in the Buchenwald concentration camp, died in 1944.

Mafalda in Mendoza, the city where Quino lived.

Mafalda rapidly captivated both readers and publishers. Over time, more characters were added to the story. The Buenos Aires-based magazine Primeira Plana offered two comic strips without advertising purposes, published daily by Siete Dias. However, her cartoon was banned, and her character returned to El Mundo. In the late 1960s, Quino’s comic cartoons were translated and became the most famous Latin American cartoon character worldwide. Her first translation was done by none other than the iconic Italian medievalist Umberto Eco (1932-2016). Moreover, she appeared in books, with the first one edited in 1966.

Quino was shy, so he expressed himself through Mafalda’s comic strips. There are many notable moments with literal statements made by the beloved protagonist, who is politically engaged at a young age and often breaks the fourth wall. However, many details in her stories have been left unsaid, as the cartoonist was influenced by the Argentine Revolution from 1966 to 1973.

Mafalda’s aversion to soup was an allegory for the military regimes in the Southern Cone. Her rebellious personality is evident in her attire and tastes. It’s no coincidence that she wears red, symbolising power, socialist revolution, and sexual liberation. She admires The Beatles, a revolutionary rock band with origins in anti-conformism. She even treats her globe as a cherished pet. Her childlike essence is preserved through her affinity for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.


The symbolism doesn’t stop with Mafalda but is also present in the other characters. Susanita represents a critique of machismo, individualism, capitalism, and prejudices. Her life’s goals involve finding a wealthy husband, having children, and looking good. Manolito embodies savage capitalism and materialism. Felipe is a dreamer. Libertad is a young girl whose parents are young idealists. Miguelito is a big-hearted yet self-catered innocent. Burocracia is her pet tortoise. Mafalda’s parents met at university, but her mother dropped out when she got married and became a housewife, much to her daughter’s dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, her father is an employee at a company.

The comic strips were created between 1963 and 1973. The reason for Quino discontinuing them remains unknown. Some say he believed his beloved creation was becoming a stereotype, and he didn’t want that for his character. Others speculate that the cartoonist wanted to avoid repetition and explore his creativity with different caricatures. Some even mentioned Quino wanting to dedicate more time to his family. Nevertheless, there were unique comic strips during these years, along with adaptations to cartoons.

The comics were a product of a specific period, encompassing events like the return of Perón, the Argentine Revolution, and the era of Che Guevara. Globally, they were created amidst the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, concerns about China, the decolonization of Africa, and movements among students and the proletariat. Culturally, they emerged during the British Invasion and the rise of television’s popularity. As previously mentioned, Mafalda is inherently political, leading to its banning in many countries due to censorship during dictatorships.

Even after decades, Mafalda remains relevant for Hispanic students, frequently being used in language classes. It’s also employed in humanities and social sciences to encourage critical thinking. In Buenos Aires, the character is honoured with a square named after her, featuring a statue on the bench that inspired Quino’s setting for Mafalda’s stories.

Creator (Quino) and Creation (Mafalda)

Mafalda was born from the sexual liberation movement and evolved into a symbol of revolution, inspiring young girls to use their voices and fight for their rights. Her iconic red dress and hair ribbon became emblems of her power. She subverted gender roles as an active female protagonist. This is a significant departure from the secondary, often stereotyped roles women typically held in earlier depictions. As assistants, objects of desire, victims, or romantic pairs.

Mafalda offers a portrayal of a typical middle-class Argentinean family. Her mother, a housewife with children, and her father, a weary office employee with little voice and financial struggles, gardens to distress.

Quino passed away in 2020, but his creation lives on. Mafalda’s comic strips have transcended their era, offering pertinent critiques that apply to contemporary society. The characters embody ideologies that are presented and, at times, evolved in diverse groups of society.