The little girl who challenged a nation

The best Mafalda cartoons. And the story behind how this little girl changed the views of Argentina… and maybe South America.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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Mafalda cartoon statue, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child for people to realise their own foolishness.

The apparent naivety of youth is easy to dismiss… but often it reveals a view of the world that is unburdened by the twisted and ambiguous ideologies of adulthood.

In Mafalda, a young girl who hates soup, Argentines once found an insightful commentator of social events.

Mafalda first appeared in a comic strip in 1964 when she was six years old. Despite her age, she was a child with a big heart and an awareness of the world she lived in.

She cared about humanity and world peace and, in her own way, she struggled against the problems she saw around her.

She also liked The Beatles… but I guess everyone did back then.

mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina

For ten years Mafalda appeared in newspapers in Argentina until the cartoonist, Quino, stopped the series. In those ten years she had gained only five years of age but a huge following in Latin America.

Readers were drawn to her in a way that, in this region, had never been seen before with a cartoon. She spoke to a community that needed to question the state of the world but lived in a time when it was safest for a fictional child to do the questioning.

As you’ll see in these examples, Mafalda looked beyond the usual primary school problems of muesli bars, skipping ropes and boy germs. She tackled the Vietnam war, nuclear weapons and the meaning of life.

mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina
mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina
mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina

The influence of Mafalda grew over the years that she was published in Argentinian newspapers (and in compendiums of the cartoons). It got to the point where she was even influencing the dietary habits of children.

I mentioned earlier that she didn’t like soup, a recurring theme in the comic strip. Well, a survey of children in Argentina aged 7-11 found that only 5 per cent of kids who read Mafalda regularly said soup was a favourite food while 55 per cent of kids who never read it gave soup the thumbs up.

If you’re interested in the blend of art and culture, you may be interested in this street art tour in Buenos Aires.

These days the young social analyst is officially retired, although collections of the cartoons are still published. She would be in her late twenties if the ageing process stayed at the same rate – but the Argentines don’t like to think about that.

mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina

A life-sized statue of her as a young girl was installed two years ago in the neighbourhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, outside the old home of the cartoonist Quino.

It’s become a popular tourist attraction in the city and every day, no matter the time, there are always people waiting to have their photo taken with her.

mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina
mafalda, buenos aires, cartoon, comic, argentina

It’s strange that almost 40 years after Mafalda disappeared from the daily pages she still elicits such a response.

Perhaps it’s from memories of her bravery and strength in fighting against the malevolent forces of a time caught between a world war and a cold war. Or perhaps it’s a longing for someone to stand up to the villains of today.

Argentina, like much of the world, is slipping into an economic black hole where more is being sucked in than could possibly ever come back out.

Now is a time when the simple truth, however naïve it may seem, is what people need to hear. And perhaps they need to hear it from a child like Mafalda.

There’s much more to the city than just the Mafalda statue – and I recommend doing a guided tour so you can let more about the culture from a local. There’s this great walking tour that will take you all over the place. Or there are some more options here:

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BUENOS AIRES

If you stay close to the city centre of BA, you’ll be near many of the main sights and have easy access to other neighbourhoods.

BACKPACKER

For a backpacker option, Che Juan Hostel is modern and comfortable with good privacy.

BUDGET

With great value and a central location, River Hotel is a good option if you’re on a budget.

BOUTIQUE

For true style, I would recommend BE Jardin Escondido, which is where Francis Ford Coppola stays.

LUXURY

And when it comes to the top end, the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt is the ultimate in luxury!

32 thoughts on “The little girl who challenged a nation”

  1. What’s interesting about Mafalda is that she’s timeless. Anyone in the world will understand the issues she touches in the strips.
    She’s quite famous around the globe, I think Mafalda was translated in more than 80 languages. Quino, his creator is like a comic eminence in Argentina (along with others like Caloi and Fontanarrosa)

    Reply
    • It says a lot about the world, doesn’t it, that issues in one country from decades ago can still be so relevant to so many people today. Is it because Quito captured it so well… or is it because the more things change, the more they stay the same?

      Reply
  2. My sister introduced me to Mafalda when I was in High School. Mafalda’s message is so strong that I did an analysis for a class about its social and political messages. I really enjoyed reading all the strips!

    Reply
    • That’s great you got to actually study the comics. There’s so much in them that is still relevant to the world today. It’s interesting how the ideas can be applied across generations and continents and still ring true.

      Reply
  3. Hello guys,

    I’d like to know where you got the English version of Mafalda.

    I’ve looked for many websites and bookstores; however, nobody has it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
      • Hello, The translation does exist. I saw Mafalda in English in a bookshop in Montevideo, Uruguay. I don’t remember any details of publishers though. Keep on looking for it.
        Best of lucks

        Reply
    • Hi Susy, you can find the English Editions of the books in Amazon. The ones from 1 to 10 are just great. I recall reading the comics when I was just a little older than her, I knew every story and I re’read them again and again. Priceless.

      Reply
  4. Hoy Ayer y Siempre!! Dear Anglofiles the fact that you have not heard/read about her doest mean anything ,..other than that! She is a hero of SouthAmerica , Spain and all those clever enough to get her…Today Yesterday and Always this girl and Quino nail it! With rigor and with love! ..I could write a whole page..but just Thanks to Quino Hoy Ayer y Siempre!

    Reply
  5. Thank you for such of great post! I love Mafalda I read many of her amazing stories when I was young, now 46 I am going to Argentina as a guest curator for their 4th biennial and part of my project is to honor Mafalda.

    Reply
  6. I really love Mafalda!!! She is and has been my icon from my childhood. I give activities to my students in which they have to relate their tasks with her such as a daily routine, or whatever.
    I’ve had the pleasure and the gift to meet Quino in person once on my summer holiday. It was funny because I haven’r recognize him . At that time my children were little kids and I was trying to take care of all them three in Mar del Plata when a couple approached us and with a very kind voice , the man said to his wife – ‘… Look ! Twins!!!, how nice!!!! We’ve been talking for some time and when they were saying good bye to my husband and me , he kindly said , just in case, I’m Quino!!!!

    Reply

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