The artist Joaquín Salvador Lavado, who is known worldwide for creating the cartoon character Mafalda, died this Wednesday in Argentina. The news of Quino’s death, as he became known as an artist, was confirmed by his editor, Daniel Divinsky, on the social network Twitter. He was 88 years old and in recent times he was in a wheelchair and had moved away from the spotlight. He lived in Mendoza, the city where he was born and settled in 2017 after the death of his wife, the chemical engineer of Italian origin Alicia Colombo.
Quino died. All the good people in the country and in the world will cry for it.
– Daniel Divinsky (@ DanielDivi1) September 30, 2020
He was the “most international and most translated graphic humorist in the Spanish language”, wrote The country. “There is no generation at this moment, in dozens of countries, that does not mourn the loss of one of the most translated Argentine authors, alongside Borges, Sabato and Cortázar,” added the Argentine daily The nation. “That Mafalda was disconsolately orphaned, is now the saddest commonplace in the world.”
Through the unconformed Mafalda, a six-year-old girl from the Argentine middle class, a fan of the Beatles and pancakes, always averse to eating soup, Quino conveyed his existential and critical anxieties in the face of social injustice, Folha de S. Paulo. Mafalda was concerned with the direction of humanity and peace in the world. And the author too.
This and other characters of Quino were guided by the black and corrosive humor about social and political realities. The effects of the Spanish Civil War and World War II and the political debates he heard at home between his communist grandmother and his republican parents had marked him. “Created between mourning and wars, it seems to move between a burning sensitivity for the suffering of the weak and an open disgust for any kind of power”, qualified a reporter from the The country, who visited him in 2014.
It has sold millions of books worldwide and its cartoons are translated into more than thirty languages, including English, Portuguese, French and Japanese. Mafalda, A Contestatária it was Quino’s first album published in Portugal, with the stamp of Don Quixote Publications, in 1972. This same book had a first Italian edition with a preface by the philosopher Umberto Eco, who was among the admirers of the character.
Joaquín Salvador Lavado was born on July 17, 1932 in Mendoza, next to the Andes. His parents, Cesário and Antonia, were Spanish and around 1919 they had emigrated from Fuengirola, in Malaga (Andalusia), to Argentina. As a child he decided that he wanted to be a cartoonist, when he saw drawing an uncle designer graphic that lived in the same house. The family was paid for, the father worked as a waiter, there were two more brothers.
Quino did not like to play football or go out with the girls and did not watch television either. Reserved and lonely, he spent his childhood days making drawings on the kitchen table, literally on top of the table. Many Syrian-Lebanese, Italian, Spanish immigrants lived in the city. But he “never let the stimuli of the real world make him waste a lot of time”, narrated The nation.
He was interested in an imaginary and childlike world, the place where anything is possible. “Every time I put on my shoes and noticed that they were getting tight, a huge desperation invaded me. I didn’t want to be big. I thought it was terrible. When we are small, it is others who take care of us, ”he said once. “Old age is crap that scares a lot. I give old age a political sense. It is as if Pinochet fell on top of him and started to ban things: not this, not even that ”, he said in 2014.
In the early years of school, the obligation to draw maps, rivers or the human body corresponded to a time of joy in the face of the possibility of putting into practice what he liked most. But between the ages of 10 and 18 she lost her mother (with cancer) and her father (heart attack), and didn’t even finish high school. He attended a course in fine arts, but abandoned it without concluding. He already had a genius vocation, as if he had spent years being corrected and molded in formal instruction. The rigor of the filigree that would accompany him also came on loan from the authors he most admired: Sempé, Jean-Maurice Bosc, Harvec, Faizant, Claude Serre or Chaval, wrote the Argentine press.
He left Mendoza at the age of 22 and went to Buenos Aires, after a first attempt that lasted a short time. “I lived in pensions, with three types in a room, with a lot of prostitution. I was very impressed. It was very strange for me. Shortly afterwards I met Alicia, who was a friend of a cousin’s girlfriend. But for five or six years we were friends, it didn’t occur to us that we could be together ”, he said in an interview. They got married in 1960 and spent their honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro.
Published the first drawings in 1954 in the magazine This is. The character Mafalda emerged in the early 60s, because of an advertising job. He had found a job as an advertising artist and, in that condition, he was ordered comic strips for newspapers to show a family using Mandsfield appliances – the name that gave rise to “Mafalda” due to phonetic proximity. The strips were rejected by the newspapers because they considered them to be advertising that was too similar to the comics they used to publish.
Quino would eventually recover Mafalda shortly afterwards, already without any advertising purpose. The first story came out in 1964 in the magazine Front page, from Buenos Aires. He continued to publish Mafalda strips until 1973: in the magazine Seven days, on June 25, 1973, the last one came out, exactly 1,928 strips later. He said he was exhausted by the newspaper’s tight deadlines. The character was already eternal.
In recent years, he reported the Folha de S. Paulo, Mafalda was adopted by Argentine feminist movements, with the endorsement of the artist himself, and was even used in campaigns in favor of legalizing abortion.
In interviews in the 90s he went so far as to say that the end point in Mafalda’s stories was due not only to his own will, but to political pressure. “If I continued to draw, I could have been shot,” he said. In those early 1970s, with Isabelita Perón in the presidency, Argentina was living through iron and fire, with persecution by artists and intellectuals and a deep economic and social crisis, which led to the 1976-83 dictatorship. During that same period, Quino and his wife went into exile in Milan.
Without Mafalda, Quino devoted himself to other works, often in the service of causes: campaigns by UNICEF, the Red Cross and later by the Argentine government itself. Between 1989 and 2006 he designed for the Sunday magazine of the porteño newspaper Clarion. He retired, sick, with a glaucoma.
He received the official order from the Legion of Honor of France, the La Catrina Caricature Prize, from the Guadalajara Book Fair, in 2003; and the Príncipe das Asturias Prize for Communication and Humanities in 2014. Until 2017, he lived in Buenos Aires, in a small apartment in the Bairro Norte neighborhood.
“The walls are full of drawings by friends – REP, Crist, Fontanarrosa -, diplomas and various prizes. Behind your desk is a bookcase with art books, the glass doors covered with drawings and photos. His wrist trembles a little and he seems to have a somewhat rigid leg, but when he speaks, his voice is firm and, behind the glasses, his eyes clearly focus on the interlocutor’s eyes, ”said The country, who visited him six years ago.
Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister of Spain, reacted to the death of “the great Quino, father of Mafalda and thousands of stories that made us smile and think”. Ireno Montero, Spanish Minister for Equality, echoed Iglesias’ words, saying: “Mafalda and Quino’s other creations have always accompanied us, helping us to laugh and think. And they will never stop doing it ”.
To many, Mafalda and the rest of Quino’s creations have always accompanied us, helping us to laugh and reflect. And they will never stop. Thank you very much and goodbye, Quino. pic.twitter.com/b1ZxRWFr6M
– Irene Montero (@IreneMontero) September 30, 2020
In recognition of Quino’s work, the Spanish Royal Academy also published a message on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, highlighting the fact that he was “one of the most international designers of the Spanish language”, whose “accurate words traveled between both sides of the Atlantic ”.
Quino, creator of the unforgettable Mafalda and one of the most international cartoonists in Spanish, has left us. His accurate words traveled to both sides of the Atlantic thanks to his cartoons and his peculiar sense of humor. pic.twitter.com/bh7tG1uw4Y
– RAE (@RAEinforma) September 30, 2020
The well-known Argentine designer Miguel Rep wrote this Wednesday on social media that Quino was a second father for him. And vice-president Cristina Kirchner paid tribute to the artist with an “always, master”. Argentine philosopher José Pablo Feinmann wrote in the newspaper Page 12 that Mafalda was “drawn literature” and that the author’s drawings “are masterpieces obsessively worked”.