Never mind that the resorts producing these images don't have a shred of authenticity or unity. They're perfectly happy to throw the entire Caribbean into a blender with Polynesia and even Mexico and South America for an "island" experience. Thus you get guys in Rasta locks singing calypso and soca songs to people eating coconut-crusted Alaskan salmon while Filipino waiters say, "No problem, mon."
When cruise ships dock at Labadee, most passengers don't have a clue where they are. And why should they, since Labadee, manufactured just for tourists, is nothing like the rest of Haiti?
Yes, yes, I know. Vacationers should be allowed to indulge in a little fantasy. What's the harm?
So, all right. Have your fun. Wear a grass skirt and a pirate hat while drinking Kahlua. But what a richer experience it is to see both the similarities and differences among island chains, and among different islands within one group.
I believe that these deeper understandings -- knowing, for example, that an islander's attitude toward entrepreneurship might be affected by whether he comes from an isle with a salt-raking tradition or one with an agricultural tradition -- increase the experience of travel and of reading. Writers especially have an obligation to be observant and honest about these differences.
It's too easy to toss around some "yeah, mon"s and 'tings to depict an island character in print. I promise to avoid that. Call me out if you see I haven't.