In a city where I am now able to speak freely

The author with husband, international POP artist Peter Marco.

The author with husband, international POP artist Peter Marco.

By Jeanette Bocobo Marco

Now that I have been in America in general and New York City specifically for four months, I have an opportunity to compare life here to the past 15 years I spent in the United Arab Emirates.

As you may guess, when I first arrived in New York City there was a bit of culture shock which, I’m happy to say was a softened by my husband who is a native New Yorker. Long before I even left the UAE to come to the U.S., he told me not to trust anyone in New York City. He didn’t say this to scare me. After spending time in the UAE where I published my own travel and tourism and health magazine in a male-dominated business within a patriarchal society, I don’t scare easily.

Upon arriving, one aspect of New York life that I immediately appreciated both as a journalist and as a human being was the freedom. In the UAE, people have to be very careful about what they say, and who they say it to. This type of self-censorship for fear of being arrested and jailed, clearly runs counter to the precepts of independent journalism and tends to turn the News Cycle into a propaganda mill. While I found this to be true in some cases in the U.S., especially in Mainstream Media, I was very happy to report that independent journalism is very much alive and well in America.

Inadvertently relying on my reporter’s chops, I treated my first months in New York and America as a kind of personal assignment, an investigation that became an inevitable part of my adjustment. I’m happy to say this resulted in my limited assimilation, and relatively comfortable coexistence in the culture and community of New York City. I soon realized NYC is a special place, a conclusion shared by the millions who call New York City home.

In the four months since I arrived, I’m having fun enjoying my independence and have learned a lot from American society and how it differs from the Middle Eastern culture. I feel that people here are more independent, opinionated, competitive and less unified than people in the UAE. My opinion, regardless of how that may be perceived, is an inevitable fact and immediately apparent to anyone who has lived in the UAE for an extended period of time.

New York City, even now with all of the gentrification or as my husband likes to say “Taylor Swift-ification,” is still great! I think this Swift-fication definition stems from American singer Taylor Swift’s relatively recent move to my husband’s home town.

Jeanette Bocobo Marcos is the U.S. News Bureau Chief of the Philipino Business News online publication in the Philippines

Jeanette Bocobo Marco is the U.S. News Bureau Chief of the Philipino Business News online publication in the Philippines

Swift, who was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, raised in Wyomissing, PA, and then moved to Tennessee where she became a chart-topping country singer, has now moved to New York. She was named “Global Welcome Ambassador” in 2014 by New York City’s Department of Tourism — whatever that means — with duties that include teaching native New Yorkers like my husband and his parents how to pronounce “Bodega.” My husband just shakes his head…only in New York.

So it’s been lots of fun so far. One of the highlights happened a few months ago when I met Luis Pedron, a Philippine-born journalist/filmmaker who is now living in the city. Luis introduced me to many wonderful people in his network which greatly helped me establish my journalistic and personal roots in the big city.

I’m currently the U.S. News Bureau Chief of the Philipino Business News which is an online publication in the Philippines that covers topics such as Business, Philippine Economy, Politics, Entertainment, Travel, and Fashion.

In keeping with a longstanding New York City tradition of multi-tasking, I am also the Executive Director of Marcoart NYC, a company headed by my husband, Peter Marco, who is an internationally known artist. I am involved in promoting and selling my husband’s unique brand of POP Art as paintings, prints, products and apparel and is international both in its message, scope, and philanthropy. For this reason, I find the international nature of a city like New York so downright appealing.

In essence I’ve quickly come to realize that New York City, my husband, and I have one critical uniting element in common. We are all, individually and combined, the sum of our parts. Since every part must speak, New York City is a place where historically many voices have and continue to be raised, each separate and distinct. All of these voices are unified in one key respect. They are, more often than not, all heard on their own merit, or there lack thereof.

Our access to the opportunity to self-expression is a fundamental natural right that supersedes any man-made law. It is for this reason alone, that I am singularly happy to be in a place where I am able to speak freely in this day, age, and during these politically charged times. I am no longer in a place where such an important innate right is routinely suppressed with threats of silence or incarceration or worse.

There are those in America who take this most basic right for granted. To them I say, take some time and visit other parts of the world where this right is so coveted that people risk their lives to exercise it to enlighten, alert, and educate. Then come home and do likewise. I know I do.

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