Mercedes Vaquero was born in Toledo (Spain). She received her Licenciatura at the Universidad Complutense (Madrid) in 1976, her first M.A. from Michigan in 1979, and her second M.A. and PhD degrees from Princeton in 1981 and 1984 respectively. She joined the Department of Hispanic Studies in 1989, and became a part of Brown's Medieval Studies Program in 1991. She had previously taught at Boston University, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Middlebury College and Saint Lawrence University. In 1996-97 she was the director of the International Institute in Spain, one of the oldest American institutes in Europe.