Amelia was born in 1896 in Yaguajay, in the former Cuban province of Las Villas (now Sancti Spíritus Province). In 1915, her family moved to Havana, to the La Víbora district, and this gave her the opportunity to enter the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes "San Alejandro" at the rather late age of 20 years (students at this academy usually start at 12–13 years of age). She was among Leopoldo Romañach's favourite students. By 1924, she exposed her paintings for the first time, along with another Cuban female painter, María Pepa Lamarque. She transferred to Europe in 1927, and established herself in Paris, although she paid short visits to Spain, Italy and other countries.