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Gloria Mendoza is a main character and an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary, portrayed by Selenis Leyva. She ends up taking over the kitchen after Red is ousted, but then quit running it in Season Three so she could have more time for visitors. She was also the leader of the Spanish Harlem until Season Four when Maria Ruiz took over.
Before prison Gloria was a devoted mother in a toxic, abusive relationship with her boyfriend. While in prison her maternal role becomes focused on her prison daughters. The abuse she suffered from her boyfriend appears to have hardened her. That, in conjunction with her prison stay, makes her excude toughness.
Gloria’s protective, loving nature makes up the crux of her character. Her toughness comes out most when she is helping others which is in contrast to her behavior in her own life. She often seems beaten down, helpless, and unsure when her own (actual) family is involved.
Unlike other leaders like Red or Vee, Gloria is seen helping people outside her prison family. She gives Alex Vause sarcastic advice in the first season, becomes deeply concerned for Sophia Burset despite the prejudices of the other inmates, and jokes with Red after learning she has left her husband.
Respecful, methodical, and intelligent, Gloria seems to use her motherly instincts to think of the long term. She is the first to suggest amnesty during the riot - potentially the most important part of the contract many would overlook. The riot also led many inmates to get caught up with their prison lives and put their lives on the outside second (like Maria Ruiz). Gloria, instead, focuses on her family and life on the outside - even commiting acts other inmates would consider treasonous for a chance to see her son in the hospital. At the same time, her plan to leave her boyfriend was extremely slow and delayed.
She has short dark hair which she presumably gels down. She also has a tattoo on the left side of her neck. She is usually seen wearing silver hoops.
For a list of episodes featuring Gloria's flashbacks, see here.
Before Litchfield Edit
Her backstory reveals that she was engaging in food stamp fraud in her corner store. She had also suffered domestic abuse from her boyfriend, Arturo. She forgave Arturo until he hit her son, Benny. She then tried to run away with her saved up money, afraid that Arturo would kill them all, but was arrested before she can leave. It is revealed that an unsatisfied customer of the mystic shop called the cops on her. Later, after Arturo returns for the stolen money, he burns to death after accidentally knocking over several candles ("Low Self Esteem City").
Gloria is Red's opposite number among the Hispanic and Latina inmates, though with no organized crime connections. She is a mother of four. She organizes domino games and looks out for the other inmates, either by giving advice or by performing Santeria (which she refers to as "Catholic plus") for them. She is often critical of Daya's inability to speak Spanish but still accepts her as one of her own. Despite this, she tricks Daya into drinking a concoction that makes her feel sick, at the request of Aleida, Daya's mother.
When Red is put under investigation after her smuggling operation's cover is blown, Mendoza becomes the new head cook, and some inmates prefer her breakfast cooking. Red tries to sabotage Mendoza's kitchen operations, but fails to discourage her replacement and damages her own relationships instead. At the end of the first season, it is shown that Mendoza is starving out Red in a similar way that Red did to Piper at the beginning of the season.
Vee approaches Gloria to introduce herself on her second day back at Litchfield. She wastes no time before offering a pack of cigarettes in exchange for (as we later find out) Gloria baking her a cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles — part of a power play to get Taystee and the other black girls under her thumb. Gloria and Aleida smoke the cigarettes, but they're stale and make them cough a lot. She does not take kindly to this.
Later, when the plumbing goes awry in the Spanish Harlem bathroom, Gloria and her girls try to butt in line in the 'ghetto bathroom', but Vee refuses them — leading to a mounting rivalry between the two groups, with Vee and Gloria on the front lines. At breakfast, the black girls are served 'special' trays of inedible, over-salted food. This upsets Watson, who feels she had nothing to do with the argument in the bathroom and is being unfairly lumped in with the others. When she is refused a new meal, she angrily trips up pregnant Daya and ends up being restrained and punished by CO Bennett, which further fans the flames of the rising racial tensions. Aleida eggs on Gloria to do something about it and show Vee who runs things at Litchfield.
Gloria confronts Vee and asks her for a word in private. She gets tough with her, and the manipulative Vee plays it off like she doesn't want any trouble, pleading with Gloria not to hurt her and offering her the better bathroom for one seemingly innocent favor in return — that the two Spanish girls working in maintenance get moved to kitchen duties so that Taystee and Cindy can get a job transfer.
Upon learning that Norma is plotting to poison Vee, Mendoza convinces her to use Santeria to get back at her instead.
Although Gloria and Norma begin practicing Santeria together, eventually Norma sets up shop on her own, which displeases Gloria. Gloria tells her to stop, saying it's neither her story nor her culture, causing Norma to oblige, but to 'go into business' as a cult leader on her own.
Meanwhile, Gloria starts to become worried over her eldest son, Benjamin (Benny), when she finds out that he has been acting up at home and tries to straighten him up by forcing him to bring his homework during visiting hours. When she finds out that Sophia's family lives near hers, she asks if Sophia's wife can give Benito rides to the prison, which Sophia agrees to request. However, Sophia takes back the offer when she becomes convinced that Benny is a bad influence on her own son Michael, after Michael gets into a fight with another boy. This creates friction between the two women, especially after Sophia discovers that Benny had nothing to do with the fight. When she tells this to Gloria, she is enraged. The two have a confrontation in the bathroom which ends with Sophia pushing Gloria. Gloria hits her head on the wall, creating a bruise, although this was unintended by Sophia.
Aleida seeks revenge on Sophia and starts spreading transphobic rumors about her around the prison. Many of Sophia's old friends turn against her, including Taystee, and her salon becomes deserted. Eventually Sophia is attacked in her salon. Gloria is notably shocked by Sophia's bruised appearance, but says nothing. Later, when Sophia is taken to the SHU for threatening to sue the prison if they didn't take action, Gloria is visibly uncomfortable with the situation and lashes out at Aleida when she gives her credit for Sophia's removal (see main article here).
Gloria is suspicious when Red is assigned to the kitchen again, and gives her menial work to do. Shortly afterwards, Gloria excuses herself early from lunch prep for a visit from Benny and during her absence Maritza accidentally cuts off the tip of her finger. Caputo blames Gloria for being absent from her post, causing her to become furious and quit her job. Afterwards, Gloria continues working in the kitchen, now under Red, who is reinstated as head chef.
Gloria is consumed by guilt about being partially responsible for Sophia Burset being thrown in the SHU. Sister Ingalls starts acting out, attempting to be sent to the SHU, so she can communicate with Sophia and retrieve evidence of her presence in the SHU. Gloria stages a fight with Sister Ingalls and successfully gets Ingalls sent straight to the SHU. Since Aleida is being released from prison, she asks Gloria to look out for Daya. Gloria attempts to keep Daya from joining Maria Ruiz's new group, as they are smuggling drugs out of the prison, but Daya pushes back, saying she needs personal freedom to decide who she associates with. When Sophia is finally released from the SHU, Gloria tries to be a friend but is initially rejected. Eventually, Gloria is the only one who can get the Hispanics out of Sophia's salon for her, and helps Sophia put her wig back on. They are later seen sunning themselves in the yard, and Gloria believes Litchfield will now change for the better after Poussey Washington's accidental death. Gloria is not present in the final rioting scene, in which Daya aims a gun at two COs.
Gloria is concerned about Daya's well being now that she has control of Humphrey's gun. When Daya shoots Humphrey in the leg, Gloria takes him to Sophia and begs her to stitch him up. Sophia only agrees when she recognizes how important it is to Gloria that Humphrey survives. Gloria sneaks into an office Daya is using to call her mother and knocks Daya out, taking the gun without Daya ever seeing who hit her. She accidentally drops the gun in a later scuffle and it is picked up by Angie Rice. Daya is initially mad at Gloria for taking the gun but joins the peaceful movement outside, happy to be free of the responsibility. Gloria is supportive of Daya's eventual decision to turn herself in for shooting Humphrey, and defends her decision when Aleida later calls her in a rage.
Gloria is invited to Frieda's secret bunker with some of the older women and enjoys smoking weed and sharing life stories with them. When Gina fixes the electrical connections in the bunker, Gloria begins receiving urgent text messages on the phone she's using to try to contact her children. They tell her that Benny is in intensive care, after being badly beaten by a school rival.
Gloria begs Caputo to give her furlough to leave prison but he is powerless, as he is currently being held hostage in the portaloos. He tells her to go to his office and call Jack Pearson of MCC. Upon doing so, Gloria is told by Jack to release the hostages in exchange for her freedom. She sets about trying to find a way to slip the hostages past Pidge and Ouija, who are guarding them 24/7, and eventually moves all of them into the outdoor portable toilets under the guise of punishment. Gloria intends to cut a hole in the nearby fence and let them go free.
Maria becomes suspicious of the movement and eavesdrops on Gloria calling Lourdes and telling her that she'll be at the hospital soon. Maria tells Gloria she's doing the right thing by her child, but later sets the hostages free herself, in order to see her own child again. Ouija figures out Gloria's involvement and locks her in the bubble with Luschek due to her betrayal, confiscating her phone in the process. When the SWAT team eventually storm the prison, Zirconia frees Gloria and Luschek tells Gloria to go to Healy's office, where the phone should still work, so she can check on her son. She calls and finds out Benny survived emergency surgery and is recovering. She then manages to run back to the secret bunker, where she joins Red, Piper, Alex, Nicky, Cindy, Suzanne, Blanca, Frieda and Taystee in their final stand-off. Her fate is left unknown.
- Arturo (ex-boyfriend, deceased, burned to death)
- Aleida Diaz
- Sophia Burset
- Dayanara Diaz
- Marisol Gonzales
- Maritza Ramos
- Blanca Flores
- Alex Vause
- Norma Romano
- Sister Ingalls
- Frieda Berlin
- Suzanne Warren
- Gina Murphy
- Yoga Jones
- Anita DeMarco
- Joel Luschek
- Cindy Hayes
- Nicky Nichols
- Piper Chapman
- Yvonne "Vee" Parker (deceased, hit by transport van)
- Lee Dixon (abusive conduct)
- Desi Piscatella
- Francisco (turned her into the police)
- Ramona Pidge
- Maria Ruiz
- "The drink that I gave you has helped women in my family dookie for 14 generations."
- — Gloria Mendoza
- "I'm not gonna get caught up in some whitey-versus-blacky war."
- — Gloria Mendoza
- "Valentine's Day was invented to make people feel like shit if they're are not part of some perfect couple."
- — Gloria Mendoza
- "I don't trust any of you crazy bitches. You both fuckin' scorpions."
- — Gloria Mendoza
- "Why do I always have these conversations with sharp objects in my hand? You need to get outta here, before you add another hundred years to my sentence."
- — Gloria Mendoza
- "Yeah, well I'd give my left tit for a piña colada and a smoke, but you don't see that on the menu, right?"
- — Gloria Mendoza in "Hugs Can Be Deceiving"
- ""You bet. I'm like Columbo, but with two real eyes and a better ass.""
- — Gloria Mendoza