In a week, Tom leaves for North Caicos to plant our vegetable garden there. After all, North Caicos is “the garden island” and “the breadbasket of the TCI.” Things grow there.
Anyone who nods their head at that has probably accepted, without question, many more clichés about the islands and island life. Frankly, I’m tired of these trite phrases. Look at the ads and websites touting tourism, and you’ll see the same old stuff.
Pick an island, any island. I’ll bet it’s a “tropical paradise” with “unspoiled beauty.” It has “sun-kissed beaches” of “powdery white sand” and “crystal clear waters.” It’s truly an “island hideaway” and anyone there is surely “livin’ the life” (whatever that means).
And, of course, everything there is “world-class.” You name it—the resorts, spas, restaurants, casinos—world-class, baby. Just once, I’d love to see an ad note our world-class mosquitoes or our world-class garbage dumps.
In addition to the word clichés, there are the visual clichés. Have you ever seen a photo of a single conch shell or starfish on an otherwise empty beach, waves lapping at its edges? Yeah, me too, many times. Or the one with the palm tree bending over the turquoise water.
Sometimes, the visual clichés can be real. The hammock photo on this page is an un-enhanced shot from Lovey Forbes’ property. Other times, they are setups or downright lies. When St. Charles on North was being built and its owners trying to sell condos, their ad featured a shot from the beach (with a bending palm tree) looking out to a small cay. I don’t know where the photo was taken, but it definitely was not the St. Charles property, where no palm tree sits that close to the beach and there is no nearby cay. As they say, caveat emptor. What you see is not what you get.
Our Caribbean clichés can be laughed off as shorthand and ad-speak, but we should take them more seriously, because they brew false expectations. Chances are, you’re not going to find that perfect conch shell on the beach at Grace Bay, which has few shells at all and many, many more people. You might find it on North, but it will be among other beach rubble that will probably include plastic.
As for “the garden island,” my husband knows that while things can grow on North, they take a lot of work and attention. Just ask any of the people trying to make a living from farming there. It’s time to retire that cliché and many others.