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'Mafalda' Cartoonist Quino Dies At 88

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A remembrance now of Quino. The cartoonist died in Argentina this past week, and the country observed a national day of mourning for him Thursday. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on the cartoonist beloved in Latin America and around the world.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Quino is the pen name of cartoonist Joaquin Salvador Lavado Tejon. The 88-year-old was known as the father of Mafalda, star of comic strips, books and cartoons. Mafalda is a middle-class 6-year-old girl in Buenos Aires - smart, irreverent, feminist and worried about the state of the world. The crusader with a bob haircut, bangs and a bow raises her fist against social injustice, fascism and soup.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MAFALDA")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Mafalda, speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: Mafalda's adorable baby brother Guille loves to eat soup when he's not sucking on his pacifier.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUCKING PACIFIER)

DEL BARCO: The story includes their bemused parents and their friends - Manolito the capitalist, Felipe the dreamer, Susanita the gossip and politically radical Libertad. Among their many fans around the world is Argentine cartoonist Miguel Repiso, known as REP.

REP: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: ""Mafalda" comics are pacifist, progressive, humanist," says REP, reflecting the rebellious spirit of youth in the 1960s and '70s. This week, REP mourned his friend and mentor Quino by leaving his own comic strip blank.

REP: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: REP says he will forever miss his friend, who died at home in the town where he was born, Mendoza, Argentina. Quino grew up there, the son of Andalusian immigrants who discussed politics at the dinner table. That's what Quino told an audience in 2014 at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUINO: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: Quino thanked his tio Joaquin, his uncle, who was a painter and graphic designer, for inspiring him. His tio babysat him and his brothers, entertaining them by drawing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUINO: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: With one small pencil, Quino said, his tio Joaquin opened to him the world of illustration. When Quino was 20, he moved to Buenos Aires to illustrate for newspapers and magazines. He first drew Mafalda for an electrical appliance ad that was never used. He turned her into a comic strip character.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

QUINO: (Speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: "I love Mafalda for everything she's given me," he said. That includes a prize from Spain's King Felipe. Daniel Divinsky was Quino's editor at Ediciones de la Flor, which published all 10 "Mafalda" compilation books.

DANIEL DIVINSKY: That was the most important person in the Argentine culture in the last 50 or 60 years. His humor cartoons were always with a political intention and respect for human rights.

DEL BARCO: Divinsky says Quino received threats when Argentina's military dictatorship began in 1976. The cartoonist fled to Italy to live in exile until democracy was restored. Over the years, Quino's "Mafalda" books have been reprinted and translated into many languages. Divinsky says an editor at Scholastic once turned down a proposal to publish "Mafalda" in the U.S.

DIVINSKY: He sent me the report of marketing department in Scholastic that said "Mafalda" is too sophisticated for American children.

DEL BARCO: So Ediciones de la Flor decided to print "Mafalda" books in English. Divinsky announced Quino's death in Spanish on Twitter, saying all the good people in the country and in the world will cry for him.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FEMINA'S "BUEN VIAJE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.