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Latin America says goodbye to Quino, a teacher of generations of cartoonists

There is no doubt about Quino’s influence in Argentina, the country where he was born and worked. But perhaps it is not so clear that it has also spread throughout Latin America at least since the sixties, when Mafalda arrived in the capitals of countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador or Brazil under the arm of some exile from the dictatorship military man who ruled in Buenos Aires. On the day of her death, at the age of 88 at her home at the foot of the Mendoza Andes, nine artists recall how she marked their careers and describe the peculiarities of her borderless humor. “Quino influenced us all in Latin America,” sums up Laerte Coutinho, 69, one of Brazil’s most prominent graphic humorists.

Laerte Coutinho learned to read Spanish with Mafalda, in the same way that he learned French with Asterix. “I got to know Quino’s work in the sixties and was amazed. I was 17 or 18 years old ”, the artist tells the phone. “Her work is one of those so original that anyone recognizes it automatically, with a simple glance.” The artist differentiates Mafalda from American critic cartoons or French humor. “Quino taught us that it is possible to deal with the problems of society and, at the same time, portray our environment, the guy from the bakery, the neighbor, our children’s friends,” says Laerte, referring to Mafalda’s characters. “It’s difficult to find someone who can build a parallel like that.”

Trino Camacho, one of the most important cartoonists in Mexico, attributes the universality of Quino to his ability to connect something very local (like the Buenos Aires reality of Mafalda) with questions without nationality. “He dealt with issues that are philosophical of being, he managed to create characters that today, in 2020, still represent us,” he says. The Mexican cartoonist remembers that Quino’s books arrived in his country in the late 1960s, when a few bookstores imported the Argentine editions. “When I read it I realized: this is what I want to do,” he remembers. “Quino was our Gabriel García Márquez. I think he is the most influential monero and the largest in all of Latin America ”.

The Chilean Guillo –Guillermo Bastías Moreno–, agrees that Quino marked a path to follow for several generations: “I met him while studying architecture and I discovered a form of intelligent humor that captivated me. So I was abandoning architecture and loving the job of draftsman, “he says. Quino’s friend since the times when the Chilean worked in the Apsi magazine, opponent of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, confesses his sorrow for the death of “a very good and talented person” who touched on “fundamental issues of human existence,” he says. .

For Guillo, author of books like Illustrated Pinochet, the Argentine was a fundamentally political character, “but of high politics, not partisan, but interested in answering questions like ‘Are we happy?’, which is the essence of graphic humor. Quino was a famous politician.” two technical qualities in his work: “He mixed the talent of text and drawing, which is not usual.” Some time, in one of his meetings in Buenos Aires, Guillo asked him why in his humor books he drew a room with an old woman in the midst of arabesque-style furniture, murals, lamps, a half-Versailles stage, and humor left him isolated at one vertex of his page. Quino was left thinking and looking at the horizon, while the Chilean remained silent waiting for the answer from the teacher. “You know?”, replied the author of Mafalda, “as you Chileans say: ‘I do it like that, no more.”

Quino was also a powerful figure in Colombia, a country that, as its editor Daniel Divinsky, founder of Flower Editions, “Has the honor of having been the pioneer in the piracy of Mafalda”. The Argentine humor officially arrived in the Andean country with the newspaper Time between 1972 and 1973 and since then he was a guide for cartoonists and illustrators. “In addition to Mafalda, who continues to be the most relevant character of the Latin American middle class in the print media, in Colombia Quino’s thematic books also had an impact,” he says. Pablo Guerra, illustrator and editor of Rocket Comics.

“One of Quino’s qualities is that his observations are relevant in different generations. As a draftsman, he also had the enormous ability to make very difficult drawings look easy, he made them work in a very direct and intuitive way, with brilliant technique and lines, ”adds Guerra. The Colombian Mario Hernando Orozco, Mheo, learned to draw in part thanks to Quino. “As a cartoonist, you always start by imitating someone and for me, Quino was always there,” says Orozco, who teaches graphic humor at the University of Pereira. “The first thing I offer the boys in my class, as graphic humor, is a drawing of Quino: it helps me to explain how, in a Quino strip, you think something is going to happen and suddenly your perspective changes completely . Quino was a master at that, at surprising. “

The value of the neighborhood

For Orozco, the secret of Mafalda’s success in Latin America was to portray a middle class with whom the entire region could identify: a neighborhood where they could make friends, the illusion of buying the first car, a housewife mother, an office father who came home tired. Quino was different from the cartoonists who drew the characters or political events of the conjuncture, because he wanted to find something deeper in the experience of our daily life. “His ability to represent, through drawing, the different positions reveals a very deep knowledge of the human soul,” says Orozco.

The Chilean Alberto Montt, also published by Ediciones de La Flor, says that “Quino’s work is a constant invitation to critical thinking.” “Mafalda began to appear in countries that were in the midst of dictatorships. The few who moved were the cultural actors because they went into exile, and traveled from country to country with their works under their arms, ”she recalls. Mafalda was one of the few comic strips that were obtained in Ecuador – where Montt grew up – and his father believed that it was for children. So Mafalda came to him “first through images and then turned into words and ideas.” Now, she rediscovers it with her daughter. “Quino doesn’t expect you to laugh at what he does. In fact, I don’t remember laughing with Mafalda. What Quino proposed was a Trojan horse of ideas, ”says Montt.

Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist, also remembers reading Quino for the first time at the end of the seventies and noticing, years later, certain echoes in what she lived in Mexico. “There were certain similarities between what she was portraying politically,” says Bolio. “Between those authoritarian regimes in the south, and in the case of Mexico, those more than seven decades that we live [con el PRI en el poder]. “

Bolio, a feminist cartoonist, says she has identified with Mafalda since she started reading it and then drawing. “I remember a strip in which Mafalda remembers the women of antiquity and says that they only let them be a rag. The teacher had a feminist vision, he drew on the oppression of women, and in that for me he was a reference ”.

Quino’s influence in Latin America was not limited to Spanish-speaking countries. “His work is unattainable,” he adds. André Dahmer, a 46-year-old cartoonist who publishes in Folha de S. Paulo, one of the main newspapers in Brazil. “We have lost a teacher, one of the best, a voice that always cried out for humanity without anger, even if it dealt with tough issues,” he says. Dahmer argues that Mafalda is as iconic a character as Bill Watterson’s Calvin – “but with a nonconformity and a critical vision that he did not have” -, but the rest of Quino’s work stands out especially. One of his favorite pictures is hanging in his house: it shows a farmer father calling his son and asking him to stop dreaming and put his feet on the ground while the boy walks with the combine through the clouds. “His art is gigantic,” says Dahmer.

Another whom Quino directly influenced went to Sidney Gusman, editor of Mauricio de Sousa Produções, to editorial of A turma da Mônica, the most famous children’s strip in Brazil. “The fact that he put his concerns with the world in the mouths of children is frighteningly talented,” he says. Gusmán points out the timelessness of Mafalda, which is still published in school books in Brazil. “That shows that Quino has always been ahead of his time. The world has lost a great storyteller ”.