I have commonly heard that people think the lead is Filipino.

I read Starship Troopers and recall the main character living in Buenos Aires before shipping out for military service.

I recall later in the book there's dialog between Juan and another marine. In typical Heinlein style, it's not perfectly clear who's saying what because he doesn't use the "so-and-so said" style. In this ambiguous conversation it's revealed that one of the two's native language is Tagalog. From context, I just assumed that was the other marine since Juan has gone the whole book appearing to be from Argentina.

Can someone cite textual evidence from the book or word of Heinlein (ideally both) to support the notion that Juan is Filipino?

  • 2
    Jaun's mother was in Buenos Aires for a while (and Juan thought she was there when the bugs destroyed it). Jul 28, 2018 at 3:48

3 Answers 3


There is no ambiguity in the scene where it is revealed Juan Rico speaks Tagalog.

I added something to myself and Bennie said "What did you say?"

"Sorry, Bernado. Just an old saying in my own language....."

"But what language was it?"

"Tagalog. My native language."

(End of Chapter 13)

  • 2
    This is the right answer, I suggest linking to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagalog_language for those that don't know what Tagalog is.
    – gowenfawr
    Jul 28, 2018 at 3:38
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    There is also Word of God on the matter in a published essay, though I can't recall what book it is in just now. Jul 28, 2018 at 3:47
  • 5
    @WilliamGrobman The same passage is in the shorter version Starship Soldier which was published as a two-part serial in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in Oct.-Nov. 1959, and you can read it at the Internet Archive: archive.org/stream/Fantasy_Science_Fiction_v017n05_1959-11_PDF/…
    – user14111
    Jul 28, 2018 at 3:55
  • 15
    You should have included the earlier part of this conversation, where Juan Rico says that they should have named a ship after Ramon Magsaysay.
    – user14111
    Jul 28, 2018 at 4:01
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    He also mentions learning about Ramon Magsaysay in class, in case someone wonders if he grew up elsewhere but spoke Tagalog at home.
    – Davislor
    Jul 28, 2018 at 22:00

Regarding the false impression that people have that Johnny (in the book) is from Buenos Aires:

When Johnny first hears about the attack, he has no particular reaction:

The loss of Buenos Aires did mean a great deal to me; it changed my life enormously, but this I did not know until many months later.

This is not a normal reaction if Johnny was from BA.


I guess that was the worst time in all my life. I was already in bad shape for a personal reason: My mother had been in Buenos Aires when the Bugs smeared it. I found out about it one time when we put in at Sanctuary for more capsules and some mail caught up with us— a note from my Aunt Eleanora, one that had not been coded and sent fast because she had failed to mark for that; the letter itself came. It was about three bitter lines. Somehow she seemed to blame me for my mother’s death. Whether it was my fault because I was in the Armed Services and should have therefore prevented the raid, or whether she felt that my mother had made a trip to Buenos Aires because I wasn’t home where I should have been, was not quite clear; she managed to imply both in the same sentence.

His mother was clearly visiting BA, not a resident.


Johnny (Juan) Rico is indeed Filipino in the novel, (revealed in the final chapter) but he is a White guy from Buenos Aires in the film. You must have the novel and film mixed up.

When Buenos Aires was attacked early in the book, Johnny even specifically states that he is not from there but he feels sorry for those who were killed. It is later revealed to him that his mother happened to be traveling in Buenos Aires when the attack happened, and she died.

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to SF&F! You could make this a much better answer if you provided exact quotes from the book.
    – DavidW
    Nov 17, 2021 at 16:56

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