David L. Jickling
David loved La Antigua Guatemala. An icon of the community and dedicated historian, he was recognized walking the streets wearing his trademark straw hat and carrying a clipboard. Although often deep in thought, he had a smile for everyone.
David delved into the history of the original inhabitants of the town, naming property owners block by block. Results of his study of a 1604 census of Antigua were published in 1982 by Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamerica (CIRMA), a depository of research in Antigua. “The census was done for tax purposes, to be sure everyone paid his share,” David explained to the REVUE in 2005. “That was the time of Caribbean pirates. Money was needed for forts to protect the coast.” His later study of a 1588 census, published in 2008 by the Genealogical Society of Guatemala, looks more closely at residents of the colonial capital and identifies neighborhoods by the trades practiced there.
David was also fascinated by Spanish colonial architecture and traditions in Antigua and co-authored several works on church façades, altars and festivals.
David Lee Jickling was born on July 18, 1927 in Battle Creek, MI. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. After earning a doctorate in Public Administration at the University of Chicago, he entered the U.S. Foreign Service, briefly serving in the Navy Department, then the Kennedy Administration’s newly established Alliance for Progress and then U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In 1961 David was assigned as a civilian Foreign Service officer to Guatemala. He and his wife, Cynthia, fell in love with the country and, after looking at 50 different properties in Antigua, bought a Spanish colonial home in 1965. The house, built around 1568 across from the Capuchinas Church and Convent, had been the home of a town mayor from 1759 to 1763 and was once one of the biggest and grandest houses of the town, as David told the REVUE in 2006. Later subdivided into five houses and two shops, “We bought what was the kitchen, servants’ quarters, stable and second patio.”
The Jicklings’ five children grew up in the house. One daughter recalls, “As children, we had a lot of freedom here. We played in the neighborhood ruins and…liked jumping in the pila in our bathing suits. Coming here is like coming home.”
Meanwhile, David traveled to and from 35 different countries, developing democratic local governments. A devoted stamp collector, he researched, documented and assembled several collections of stamps from each nation in which he served.
After retirement from the State Department in 1978, he and Cynthia moved back to the family farm in Michigan. Both taught at Olivet College and Western Michigan State University until 1982. During this time they brought student groups to Guatemala for cultural studies. Then they returned to live full-time in Guatemala. David continued to do what he did before, but accepting work on contract, while his insatiable curiosity created continuous challenges. He said, “I’ll retire when no one asks me to do something.”
Close friend and colleague Jack Leeth remembers David as “always a gentleman and historian, so interested in Antigua…and so terrifically honest in all his dealings.” He will not be forgotten.