The meaning of Mafalda

THE COMIC strip appeared for just nine years, between 1964 and 1973, in Argentina. Yet Mafalda occupies a unique and lasting place in Latin American popular culture. That showed in the acclaim and affection bestowed on her creator, Joaquín Lavado, who died on September 30th. The strip’s heroine was a dumpy, mop-haired, rebellious six-year-old girl. With the implacable logic of children (but rather more sophistication than most), she interrogated domestic life, her country and the world, and usually found them wanting.

Mafalda was more political than Peanuts and more modern than Asterix, but she enjoyed similar popularity. Mr Lavado, who drew under his childhood nickname of Quino, syndicated the strips across Latin America and southern Europe. They were translated into 26 languages and are still republished today. Mafalda has sold more than 20m books as well as T-shirts, mugs and other memorabilia. The original comic strips reflect a particular milieu and time: middle-class Argentina in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. But much of Mafalda’s wit is universal and feels fresh even today. She plays a prominent role in a long and continuing tradition of political satire in Latin America.

Umberto Eco, an Italian writer, was an early fan. Mafalda, he wrote, is “an irate heroine who rejects the world as it is…defending her right...

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