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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 and she still seems unsure how to be a parent to her children.
As if to highlight her keen intelligence, on more than on occasion Gloria has revealed information she knows that other prisoners thought was a secret. Examples of this would be the date of Aleida’s parole hearing and her awareness that Norma was stealing eggs and honey from the kitchen.
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) - At some point, Gloria met Arturo and started a relationship with him. The relationship turned abusive however, and Gloria took her children away from him. Gloria ended up taking Arturo back after he begged, but ended it again after he hit her son.
- Aleida Diaz (best friend) - Gloria and Aleida are always presented to be very close. After Daya starts treating Gloria as a mather rather than Aleida, Aleida is initially upset by this, but the two grow and agree to love Daya together. Gloria is the inmate Aleida trusts the most, during Aleida's leave, she tells Gloria to watch over Daya.
- Sophia Burset (close friend) - After a rough beginning, Gloria realises her wrongdoing and resolves her relationship with Sophia, the two become close friends. Gloria is shown to be panicked and begs to find out when Sophia is going to be released from the SHU.
- Dayanara Diaz (daughter figure) - When Aleida chooses to ignore her daughter, Dayanara turns to Gloria who accepts Daya. Daya trusts Gloria with her perseonal life at prison much more than Aleida.
- Marisol Gonzales (friend) - Gloria is shown to be good friends with Marisol as part of Spanish Harlem.
- Maritza Ramos (friend) - Gloria is shown to be good friends with Maritza as part of Spanish Harlem.
- Blanca Flores (friend) - Gloria and Blanca are shown being friends and talking in the kitchen.
- Alex Vause (friend) - In season five, Gloria and Alex become friends when they are invited into Frieda's bunker.
- Norma Romano (friend) - Norma and Gloria work together to curse Vee with both of their spiritual abilities. Norma supports Norma's ability and keeps her on in the kitchen after Red is forced to quit.
- Sister Ingalls (friend) - Gloria turns to Sister Ingalls after she realises how badly she treated Sophia, Sister Ingalls' friend. Sister forgives Gloria and the two ask about Sophia in the SHU constantly. After Sister Ingalls concocts a plan to get into SHU herself, Gloria debunks it, and tells Sister Ingalls to do something serious. Sister Ingalls punches Gloria in the mouth to be taken away, Gloria smiles as she is taken.
- Red (friend) - Though Gloria took Red's job, Gloria has always been supportive of her. Gloria stops her job so she may see her son and gives Red her job back. Red and Gloria are shown to share jokes together and are together in the prison storm finale.
- Frieda Berlin (friend) - Frieda invites Gloria to her bunker in the storm, and the group discuss sex and smoke weed together.
- Joel Luschek (friend) - Gloria and Luschek joke frequently while he is fixing in the kitchen.
- Piper Chapman (friend) - One of the first few inmates Piper meets, Gloria praises Piper for knowing Spanish compared to the Spanish Daya.
- Yvonne "Vee" Parker (deceased, hit by transport van)
- Lee Dixon (enemy) - After the Spanish girls are racially targetted, Gloria is stopped by CO Dixon and frisked. CO Dixon makes a sexual remark and grabs her buttocks. Gloria is shaken by this and makes a complaint.
- Desi Piscatella (enemy) - After CO Dixon assaults Gloria, she attempts to make a complaint to Piscatella, but Piscatella shrugs it off and tells Gloria to leave as he has installed the stop and frisks upon the girls.
- Francisco (turned her into the police)
- Ouija (disliked) - Gloria dislikes most of Maria's gang after they try to sway her into the group.
- Ramona Pidge (disliked) - Gloria dislikes most of Maria's gang after they try to sway her into the group.
- Maria Ruiz (enemy) - Though Maria and Gloria are shown to be friends at first, they have friction once Maria gains power in the prison, and Gloria begins to ignore her. After Maria tries to get Daya into her gang, Gloria takes charge after Aleida tells her to watch over her.
- Arturo (ex-boyfriend) - Gloria ultimately causes Arturo's death, she escapes his abusive clutches with her sons barely, though she is arrested soon after.
- Francisco (enemy) - Francisco first appears to be an unhappy customer at Gloria's store, but after Gloria refuses any form of reimbursement, he goes to the police and has Gloria arrested for SNAP fraud.
- "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