Hi! I’m Amelia: nomad, journalist, occasional bigfoot stalker.
After more than a decade working as a newspaper reporter — for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Detroit News, the Boston Globe — I decided to go independent, leaving my job, my home and selling everything except what could fit into a backpack in order to travel full-time.
Read more: follow my itinerary to see where I’ve been
Since 2018, I have spent my time primarily in Central America, where I’ve written a lot about what it’s like to be a solo female nomad, as well as stories about gang neighborhoods, rural poverty, and U.S. impact both now and throughout history.
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Society tells us that these guys are barely human anymore. Once members of the notorious Salvadoran gangs that have long terrorized this country, they bear the marks of a violent past on their faces — the physical feature at the heart of our communication w/ & understanding of each other, the form that we see ourselves reflected in. In the US, we have long used rare words to describe men like these — years before the ES Supreme Court labeled these gangs as “terrorist organizations,” the US gave rise to the idea, w/ the Obama administration dubbing MS-13 an “international criminal group.” Here in El Salvador, the idea of working with anyone ever associated w/ the gangs is so unpopular that almost no one advocates for it. Indeed, since publishing, I’ve heard from many who assert that these men deserve the death penalty more than any sympathy. This social & political atmosphere makes it almost impossible to simple BE an ex-gang member. There are no funded programs helping to protect & reintegrate them. Most employers do not consider hiring them. They are sometimes targeted by the police, who do not believe they have the capacity to change. They regularly receive threats to their lives. “No one wants people like us around,” said one ex-gang member, who I’m calling Manuel. Often lost in the understandable fear & anger is the logic that toppling any giant societal plague requires internal forces. To attempt to fight this battle entirely from the outside is to work from a critical disadvantage and fatally misunderstand the catalysts behind kids joining gangs; besides detering violence, we have to incentivize another path. The micro church organization that attempts to feed and house them, is trying. Still, many meals are skipped, many medical needs ignored. Threats to their security, to fall back into their old ways linger just outside the church. I believe that besides serving as an inky map of their past, these men’s faces tell another story — of human capacity for hope & resilience.
Read more: Entrenched in past scars, ex-gang members lack almost every ingredient for hope; they’re baking anyway.
I’m also in the process of producing the first episode (from El Salvador) of an original docu-series about U.S. imperialism, and the marks it has left — along with a broader portrait of place, culture and food in each country.
This project is being financed entirely through crowd funding. (Thank you everyone for all of your support!)
You can sponsor the project here, and receive a credit in the final production.
Thanks to Coronavirus, I’m currently grounded in Los Angeles, where I’m working on a project about how Skid Row, the city’s biggest homeless population, is being affected by the global pandemic.
(I hope to return to Central America soon.)
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Latest project: what the Coronavirus era means for U.S. homeless populations, particularly Los Angeles’ Skid Row, where some 5,000 people live in tents lining sidewalks that sit beneath the skyscrapers rooting the downtown area of one of the richest cities in the richest country in the world. Already a community of incredible hardship, the challenges now have shifted in an even more concerning way. Many businesses set up to assist this population have closed or reduced hours. Accessing food has become more difficult as well, with quick-serve restaurants closing and chains like McDonald’s operating as drive-through only (prohibiting walk throughs). Hygiene, amid Covid19 outbreaks, is of greater importance than ever, and yet social distancing and regular hand-washing are all but impossible and access to masks, alcohol gel and gloves is difficult. Photo essay coming sometime soonish. More in my Instagram stories!
I also make short videos of, shall we say, lighter topics, such as eating my way through various cities.
If you’re interested in what I’m doing, you can support me by signing up for a Patreon subscription via the “support” tab in the main menu of this site or through this link.
Want to give me a lift without the commitment?
You can also buy me a beer.
“Follow” this blog on my home page to ensure you don’t miss any posts. Questions? Drop me a line.
And don’t forget, you can keep up with my adventure even more directly via my Instagram page, where I post all kind of up-to-the-minute updates and share stories on everything from cooking with scraps to that time I fell in sewage-infused sink mud.
Hope to see you all there!