Publication marks language win

“Juan Malimanga” is the first comic strip in local print news that is written completely in the CHamoru language. The comic strip, originally written by Clotilde Castro Gould and illustrated by Roger Faustino, centers around humorous observations and adventures of the character Juan Malimanga. Despite its continued publication in the Pacific Daily News (PDN), the origins of this iconic comic strip signaled a landmark victory in efforts to overturn the controversial language policies of print media on the island of Guam. 

In the decades after the war, the island’s print publication, the Pacific Daily News (PDN), adopted a strict English-only policy that would only allow the printing of other languages if it was accompanied by an English translation. This was an issue because more money would have to be spent for the space needed to include English translation. Tensions surrounding this policy reached a tipping point in 1977 when a request for a birthday message in Spanish was denied.

This, in turn, sparked the creation of the organization, People’s Alliance for Responsive Alternatives, or PARA for short, which is the CHamoru word for “stop.” A rally was organized on March 26 of the following year across the street from the PDN building in the now Senator Angel Leon Guerrero Santos Latte Stone Memorial Park in Hagåtña. These protests stirred strong feelings of opposition to the English-only policy, prompting numerous cancellations to PDN subscriptions. 

In an effort to rebuild the relationship between the PDN and the island community, the PDN partnered with the Guam Department of Education’s CHamoru Studies and Special Projects Division to incorporate the CHamoru language into the print publication. Coltilde Castro Gould, who served as the division’s administrator, oversaw the creation of Fino’ Chamorro, a new feature within the paper that highlighted CHamoru words and phrases. In addition, Gould was asked by the PDN editor, John Simpson, to translate the American comic strip, “Peanuts,” into CHamoru so as to further incorporate the CHamoru language into the paper. 

As Gould began her translation, she realized that the humor of the comic became lost as she wrote it in CHamoru. This inspired her to instead create an entirely new comic strip that better reflected the CHamoru language and culture. She then enlisted the help of Roger Faustino, her division’s graphic artist, to illustrate her idea and bring it to life. The result was a sample for a new comic strip “Juan Malimanga,” named after the CHamoru trickster from Spanish-era stories, Juan Mala. The comic was approved and was set to be included in the comic section of the PDN on 11 May 1981. 

The comic, “Juan Malimanga,” depicted the title character, as he navigated life on Guam with his friends Kika and Nano. Inspiration for the comic came from Gould’s experience growing on Guam as a child as well as the island’s current events. Coupled with the masterful use of the CHamoru language, the comic strip was well received by island residents, especially those who shared similar childhood experiences with Gould.

Gould and Faustino continued working together to create new adventures for Juan and his friends to be included in the daily paper. The “Juan Malimanga” comic strip continued to be created until Gould’s death in 2002. However, through support from Gould’s family and the University of Guam’s CHamoru Studies department, the comic returned to the PDN with new dialogue and art in 2009 provided by Peter Onedera and Ron Castro.

“Juan Malimanga” has been used in various classrooms throughout primary, secondary, and higher education as a tool to teach the CHamoru language. Its continued printing is a reminder of the struggle faced by the CHamoru people in having their language more present in daily life.  

Here are a few examples of the “Juan Malimanga” comic strip with an English translation. 

Panel 1
Kika: Where are you going Juan?
Juan: To a celebration of 25 years of marriage

Panel 2
Kika: Wow, it’s been 25 years since you were married!

Panel 3
Juan: No, I’ve been married 25 times!

Panel 1
Kika: You look sick. Did you take the medicine?
Juan: No

Panel 2
Kika: Why?
Juan: Because my doctor told me to follow the directions written on the pill bottle…

Panel 3
Juan: It says to tighten the bottle’s cap

By Lazaro Quinata

Editor’s note: The comic strips have been published with permission from the Pacific Daily News. Any replication of these images will be considered a copyright violation and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

For further reading

Alladi, Amritha. “New Partnership Updates Juan Malimanga.” Pacific Daily News Juan, 2008.

Bevacqua, Michael Lujan. “Chamorro Public Service Post – Si Juan Malimanga.” No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro, 26 September 2006.

Palomo, Rosa Salas. “Bilingual/ Bicultural Education Program on Guam.” Interview by Lazaro Quinata. Modern Guam Rises from Destruction of War: 1945-1970, Guampedia, 10 March 2021. Audio, 56:31.

Santo Thomas, Jojo. “Mom and Juan: Daughter Sandy Gould Yow Talks About Her Mother, Juan Malimanga.” Pacific Daily News, 2008.