Q & A
Quino by Quino
'All children are obligated to be ecologists'
By Francesca Colombo
Quino, creator of Mafalda, one of the most famous cartoon characters in the world, spoke with Tierramérica during a recent visit to Milan.
MILAN, (Tierramérica).- Mafalda, the tough little girl who hated soup and spent her time looking at the globe, recently turned 40.
She was created in 1963 by Quino, the nickname of Joaquín Salvador Lavado (born in Mendoza, Argentina in 1932), who turned her into his combative alter ego in an era marked by the revolutionary effervescence of Che Guevara and the music of The Beatles.
This little Argentine girl became one of the most famous cartoon characters in the world, and was the star of widely published books.
Quino decided in 1973 to quit drawing the Mafalda cartoon. It was a time of military dictatorship and disappearances in Latin America -- and Mafalda would never have put up with being muzzled.
But she remains valid, even decades later. "All children are obligated to be ecologists" like Mafalda, says her creator.
Quino, who has published 18 books of cartoons, always remembers his "firstborn". As he did recently, attending a tribute to Mafalda in the northern Italian city of Milan, where he spoke with Tierramérica.
Q- Is Mafalda a girl who could be considered an ecologist, a humanitarian?
A- All children are obligated to be so. Otherwise, there would be a planetary suicide.
Q- Is your artistic career divided into "before" and "after" Mafalda?
A- No, not for me. This year I celebrate 50 years of working in humor and Mafalda represented 10 years of that panorama. She is a small part of my work.
Q- Is humor a political weapon?
A- It's the only one I know how to operate. I don't wonder whether serves some purpose. But I try to portray in my books the relationship between power and the common people.
Q- Have your books been censored?
A- Yes, many times, in Argentina and in other countries. I have taken it as a vice that one has to get accustomed to. Also, many times I censored myself, because if there was a ban, why draw things that weren't going to be published? It has been a limitation on expressing certain ideas.
Q- The world, as Mafalda would say, seems to be backwards. Many people of the left have gone to the right, the walls have come down and Chile has entered into capitalism. Do you think we have reached the end of ideologies?
A- In historic terms, we must be optimistic. After this will come the renaissance. This is one more cycle that humanity is going through.
Q- Do you feel identified with the left?
A- Well, yes, but I don't know where anything stands anymore, so maybe it's better to say, "I don't know."
Q- Should artists be committed to doing something about social problems?
A- I think so, but it isn't obligatory. Art can be independent of politics. It depends on the artists.
Q- After the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, war was declared on terrorism. What do you think is at the root of terrorism?
A- The root of terrorism is always economic, social and cultural disparity. It can only be fought be resolving the social problems suffered in the countries that give rise to it.
Q- The U.S. war in Iraq, which is ongoing, is often associated with the persecution of Muslims and greater chaos and terrorism. What is your position on Iraq?
A- For the first time in human history the entire world is dominated by one superpower, and that is something terrible. I think we have returned to the 6th century, when the barbarians began to invade the world. This time the barbarians we have in the United States. The world has entered a period of obscurantism.
Q- Argentina, your country, hit bottom two years ago, when its worst political, economic and social crisis erupted. How is the country doing now?
A- A little better, because it is not as important as it was before. Local industry is beginning to function again and the outlook is improving. But the social panorama is not moving forward, it has worsened. The same thing is happening in the rest of Latin America.
Q- Corruption is part of the problem...
A- Corruption is inherent in humans, so we'll have to deal with it.
Q- What are you working on these days?
A- I publish a weekly page of comics and humor in several media and countries. I sit down to work and see what comes out. The creative effort is long and exhausting. It takes hours, days, weeks and months.
* Francesca Colombo is a Tierramérica contributor.