If Arizona were an island, it would be Curaçao. That was my absurdly confident conclusion after just a few days on the largest of the Netherlands Antilles. Exploring the island at first was like wandering through the landscape of memory. It's a place where cactus grows thick as a pine forest, where hordes of goats graze voraciously, where iguanas and other lizards camouflage themselves on rocks in the sun while wise humans seek shade. Every sunset brings not only a celestial light show with the exuberance of religious paintings but also a soundtrack of birds chirping insistently from perches in all those cacti. Curaçao, in short, has the same lunar beauty as the Arizona of my childhood in the 1950s, when the few houses were far between and far off the roads, when steel windmills kept spinning to pump water from deep below the parched ground. Even the local language, Papiamento, echoed the Spanish of my hometown: When I asked for water at an island roadside snackbar I got a blank look; but agua brought a cold bottle. Every detail - the countless pastel churches, the brown foothills, the towering palm trees, the Jesus light at sunup and sundown - was so much like my birthplace it was unsettling.