Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death

Last night, I had a particularly poor night of sleep. I went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep around 3am. The little ones woke me up around 6:30am.

When I stumbled down into the kitchen all “zampaguado” (a very rural slang term that I learned in Costa Rica, which essentially means groggy), I said this:

Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death Shirt Black
Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death Organic Cotton T-Shirt

Then I said this to my wife: “Oh, I should put that on a shirt”.

So there it is.

After 2 cups of coffee, I feel a little better.

Going back to that word “zampaguado”…

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer up in the mountains of Costa Rica, in a little small town called La Cruz de Abangares, I lived in a cinder block house, and across the street lived a family with a dog that lived outside its house. This dog was keen on barking non-stop, starting around 2am every morning. One night, around 4am, while it was barking, I went outside and threw some rocks towards it to get it to shut up. This sounds very mean, but: 1) I didn’t hit the dog, nor intend to, and 2) this is very customary in rural Central America, where the concept of having a dog is totally different than in the USA.

The dog shut up. As I was turning to go back in my house to go to sleep, I noticed someone walking up the dirt street my way. It was Deibys, a boy who was around 14 at the time. He was up early to go milk cows. I said hi, and he said “ay mae me siento todo zampaguado”, which I learned translates to “aw man I feel so groggy”.

So 13 years or so later, I still use that word when I’m feeling groggy. Back then I didn’t drink coffee (though I lived in a coffee-growing region!). If I did, I may have said “Give me coffee, or give me death”!

Published by Artist Dave White

Dave White is an Artist in Loudoun County, Virginia, who creates paintings inspired by his travels in Virginia, Latin America and Spain, for decorating your home with art of these places and cultures. View art for sale at

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