In This Review

“Mafalda”: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic
“Mafalda”: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic
By Isabella Cosse. Translated by Laura Peréz Carrara
Duke University Press, 2019, 288 pp

The social historian Cosse interprets the famous Argentine comic-strip character Mafalda as a vehicle for its author, Joaquín Salvador Lavado (who passed away last year and whose pen name was Quino), to explore the tribulations of the middle class in Buenos Aires in the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s. Channeling the Peanuts comic strip, Mafalda is an intellectually precious, rebellious tomboy who regularly confronts her rather bewildered parents, questioning traditional social hierarchies and gender roles. Mafalda has friends who variously embody conservative family values and the values of materialistic, upwardly mobile immigrants. Smartly sarcastic, Mafalda comments on the chaos of world affairs and, more specifically, the authoritarianism and violence in Argentina that by the mid-1970s drove her creator into exile. Mafalda was widely disseminated throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond; Cosse attributes the comic strip’s enduring popularity to its universal, humanistic humor and to the utopian nostalgia evoked by allusions to the hopeful, youthful 1960s. In explaining Malfalda’s relative obscurity in the United States, Cosse suggests that the cartoon’s social commentaries are too subtle for many American readers.