Paz Latorena was born in Boac, Marinduque on January 19, 1907. Her parents are Valentin Latorena and Florencia Manguera. She was the youngest of the four siblings. At a young age she was brought to Manila where she completed her basic schooling, first at Sta. Escolastica’s College and later at the Manila South High School (now Araullo). In 1925, she pursued a degree in education at the University of the Philippines. Working by day as an elementary school teacher, she attended evening classes. One of these was a short story writing class conducted by Mrs. Paz Marquez Benitez. It was not long before Mrs. Benitez invited Latorena to write a column in the Philippines Herald, of which she was then literary editor. In 1927, Latorena joined some campus writers to form the U.P. Writers Club and contributed a short story, “A Christmas Tale” to the maiden issue of The Literary Apprentice under the pen name “Mina Lys”. That same year, her short story, “The Small Key” won third place in Jose Garcia Villa’s Roll of Honor for the year’s best short stories. Some of her other stories received similar prizes over the next several years, which includes “Desire” (1928) and “Sunset” (1929).
In her senior year, Latorena transferred to the University of Sto. Tomas, from which institution she graduated in 1930 and where she subsequently enrolled for graduate studies. Her dissertation entitled “Philippine Literature in English: Old Voices and New” received a grade of sobre saliente, qualifying her for a doctoral degree in 1934. By this time, Latorena had already joined the faculty, earning a reputation as a dynamic teacher. Among her many students were then-aspiring writers Juan Gatbonton, F. Sionil Jose, Nita Umali, Genoveva Edroza Matute and Zeneida Amador. Increasingly involved in academic work, Latorena wrote fewer stories and at longer intervals, publishing her last known story, “Miguel Comes Home”, on The Philippines Review in 1945. In 1953 while proctoring a final examination, Latorena suffered a cerebral hemorrhage which proved fatal.
Thirty-five of her stories have recently been collected in a single volume: Desire and Other Stories, edited by Eva V. Kalaw (U.S.T., 2000).