Patricia Mathews-Salazar was born and raised in Lima Peru. In 1985, she was awarded a fellowship to attend graduate studies at Indiana University, where she received an MA in Anthropology in 1988. She later transferred to Yale University and received a PhD also in Anthropology in 1997.
During her years at Yale, she worked at the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies, and was a teaching fellow in Anthropology and History departments. She also worked in the Prison and Immigration clinics at the Yale Law School, as a translator and legal interpreter.
Patricia Mathews-Salazar has taught at Connecticut College, Quinnipiac University and also at Fordham University–Rose Hill campus while living in Connecticut.
In 2000, she started teaching at BMCC as assistant professor of Anthropology in the Social Sciences. In 2005, she received an appointment from the Anthropology Department at the Graduate Center, to become a member of its doctoral faculty.
In 2008, she became Director of the Center for Ethnic Studies at BMCC.