Moreno (birth name: Rosa Dolores Alverío Marcano [note 1]) was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, to Rosa María (née Marcano), a seamstress, and Francisco José "Paco" Alverío, a farmer. She was nicknamed "Rosita". Moreno, whose mother was 17 at the time of her birth, was raised in nearby Juncos. Rita's mother moved to New York City in 1936, taking her daughter, but not her son, Rita's younger brother, Francisco. Rita adopted the surname of her first stepfather, Edward Moreno, Rosa Maria's second husband. She spent her teenage years living in the villages of Valley Stream, New York on Long Island.
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