Maria Palmira Mendiola or "Pam," as she was better known, was born on April 14, 1963 in Mission, Texas. She was a first generation American on her father's side of the family. Growing up, Pam traveled with her family to California every year to work as a field laborer. Back home in the Valleym she was an excellent student during the week and on weekends was a ranch hand visiting and helping at her paternal grandfather's ranch in Mexico.
Pam developed a love of learning and reading at an early age. She attributed this to her teachers in school, who encouraged her to read and always continue learning.