When talking about Argentine culture, beef, tango, football and gaucho typically come to mind. There is actually another aspect that one rarely talks about, and that is the historietas (Argentine comics). They provide a great perspective and an interesting look into the very essence of the Argentine culture, particularly their humor and world view.
Argentina produces many acclaimed cartoon/comic strip artists. The most famous one has to be Quino, real name Joaquín Salvador Lavado, who has created Mafalda, a comic strip that has been made into many book editions and translated into more than 30 languages.
While Mafalda is the most widely recognised Argentine comic character, there are actually many other creations that have shaped and put Argentina on the comic world map. With such notable cultural heritage, the Buenos Aires city government has started the ‘Paseo de La Historieta‘ (The Comic ‘Strip’). It is an ongoing project where they designate a ‘path’ and dot it with larger-than-life-size statue of the most well-known Argentine comic characters. So far, they have inaugurated 5 out of the 10 planned statues with Mafalda, being the first one, at the path’s starting point which is also her ‘birthplace’ in San Telmo. You can see the route here.
In order for you to enjoy more when you by chance or deliberately run into these characters on the streets, here is a brief introduction of who they are and why they have such a special place in the hearts of every Argentine.
Mafalda – The most famous of all Argentine comic strip characters, this six-year-old was “born” in San Telmo in 1964 in a comic strip created by Quino. She is sensible, idealistic, and cares about humanity and world peace. She often confounds her parents by asking about very mature and complex topics.
Isidoro Cañones – Created in 1935 by Dante Quinterno, this character is a loveable man of leisure. He is also rich, irresponsible, and avoids settling down with a real job. He’s a memorable and important character because he represents a particular era and social class here in Argentina.
Larguirucho – Manuel García Ferré created this loveable rodent in 1955; he’s a somewhat forgetful rascal, but a good guy at heart – even if he doesn’t always act like it! He’s widely recognized because he appears in nearly all of Ferré’s comics and also stars in his own tragicomedic tales, in which things never go well for him.
Matías – Fernando Sendra created the comic strip, “Yo, Matías” in 1993 starring Matías, a normal boy from a typical urban family. He’s very observant, and often asks disconcerting questions that reflect the simplicity of children’s thoughts on adult life, often upsetting his mother. This strip is still running in the Argentine newspaper, Clarín.
Hugo “El Loco” Chávez (no relation to the Venezuelan President) – In 1975 Carlos Trillo (script writer) and Horacio Altuna (artist) brought this character to life in a comic that ran for 12 years and was briefly a television series in 1978. El Loco Chávez is an Argentine journalist, known for his female conquests and as an hincha (fan) of the football team Racing Club. Through his adventures and encounters, he narrates the reality of day-to-day life in Argentina.
Chicas Divito – This name references the various female characters found in Guillermo Divito’s comic Rico Tipo (1944). These women are known for being drawn in a highly stylized manner. They’re all very fashionable and are meant to represent the sensuality and femininity of Argentine women. Today, calling a woman “una chica divito” is to say she’s synonymous with beauty and glamor.
Don Fulgencio – Called “the man who never had a childhood”, he was created in 1938 by Lino Palacio. He’s innocent, easygoing, and is a popular character because he represents the child within.
Clemente – Caloi (Carlos Loiseau) gave this bird-like character life in 1973, and even though he isn’t really human, he’s a representation of the Argentine man: he’s a great lover of football and of women. Both sour and passionate, he represents the creole liveliness and the national sense of humor. He’s an irrational fanatic of blue and white (Argentina’s colors) and never misses a game!
Patoruzú – Another creation by Dante Quinterno (1936), he’s the last Tehuelche Indian chief (a tribe from Patagonia) and has superhuman strength and speed, making him the first comic strip superhero. He is generous, brave, solitary, and a defender of justice. He possesses all of the nobility and integrity of a man of the country.
Gaturro – This orange feline was created in 1993 by Nik and can still be found in the Argentine newspaper, La Nación, as well as in 3D on the big screen. He’s a dreamer and a romantic, but also a curious and troublesome rule-breaker. He’s the pet of a modern middle-class Argentine family, and he’s best known for his imagination and ingenuity.