Gloria Vando Hickok was born on May 21, 1936, in New York, United States. She is a daughter of Erasmo Vando, a poet, and Anita Velez-Mitchell, a director, journalist, writer, and poet. Gloria Vando grew up in a family that revered literature: every aunt, uncle, cousin could recite major poems by heart. Her grandmother, with whom she lived as a child, regaled her with poems and stories. She was an avid reader and storyteller. As a child, Gloria Vando attended many Sunday afternoon recitals that featured Latino entertainers in a variety of art forms that included dance, operatic arias, string quartets, classical guitarists, and declamadores, who recited poetry and got standing ovations.