Photo © Itzel Aguilera.

Documentary: If Images Could Fill Our Empty Spaces

Alice Driver, one of Vela's staff writers, recently completed her first documentary, If Images Could Fill Our Empty Spaces. The film explores the complicated relationship between violence and photography in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Watch it below, and then read an interview with Alice about making the film. Inhabiting the Lives of Others: An Interview with Alice ... [Continue Reading]


Fire Ants

  In those first months living in El Salvador, had I walked down a village street and seen young men leaning against gaping doorframes, their eyes steady upon me, I would have read the wrong story. Then, I could barely speak, let alone interpret what signs I might have seen: a flash of black ink on skin; aerosol piss scrawled across cinder block walls. I might have ... [Continue Reading]


That Spanish September

When I graduated from college, in the spring of 2001, it seemed to me that where I situated myself, where I’d been and wherever I went next, indicated who I was. Place was like fashion, a signifier like a college sweatshirt. But place was also a passport, a record of collected stamps and visas, sure, but a ticket elsewhere. And since I had always admired beyond limit ... [Continue Reading]


The View from the Sitting Room

  One morning, the women in the Kabul house awoke with a particular sense of purpose. After the dawn prayer, when Nazo would usually roll back into bed and sleep in as long as she could, Nafisa nudged her sister-in-law and marched her toward the kitchen. As foreigners and guests of the family, my two American colleagues and I were exempt from early risings, but I ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Yann_G

Still Moments in Vampire Town

“There’s this moment of still right before it happens.” The first time, she was in a car. A man came to the window, reached in and held a machete under her friend’s chin. “But I knew,” Melissa told me. “Like, right before it happened. We were sitting in the car and I just kept thinking, ‘She should roll up her window. She really shouldn’t have her ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: The U.S. Army.

A True War Story

Columbus, Georgia, is, above all else, an Army infantry town, and it showed in the crowd on the Friday night that Tim O’Brien came to tell war stories: it was an audience of windbreakers and baseball hats marked by military insignia; square jaws and tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist; and my husband next to me, just back from his first deployment to Afghanistan, his ... [Continue Reading]


Lessons of Grief

The day that it happened, the United States Postal Service unveiled The Simpson’s collectors’ set—a five-stamp commemorative booklet featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, each set against solid, neon backgrounds. A father in Cheyenne, Wyoming took a hammer to his daughter’s cell phone after learning the girl, thirteen, sent and received 20,000 text ... [Continue Reading]


Disappearances Have to Disappear

Bodies meant nothing to me. When they jammed into me on the metro or the bus, rather than tensing, pushing, or fighting for some tiny symbolic personal space I learned to let all my air out and flatten myself into the crowd, into the wall; to press myself out of my own body. I became good at it, nonchalant like the sweat running down your arm can mix with mine and your ... [Continue Reading]

netanya photo

Making Deals with God

It was my last day in Israel, and I was surrounded by dozens of strangers in a sprawling home in Netanya, a seaside town two hours outside of Jerusalem. Stacks of dirty plates covered the long dinner table, and children scampered up and down a spiral staircase that led to the top floor. I was on an eleven-day religion reporting trip in Israel, and I’d taken a bus from ... [Continue Reading]


Who Made this Grave

One day, in late October, my son and I left his Mexican preschool and wandered up the Calzada toward Morelia’s pink stone aqueduct. He was collecting sticks snarled with epiphytes and I was walking backwards so I could watch him—his red plaid uniform, his white-blonde hair—and yet lure him homeward. Behind him, I could see, through the ficus that lined the old ... [Continue Reading]