Saldana was born in Passaic, New Jersey. Her father, Aridio Saldaña, was Dominican, while her mother, Asalia Nazario, is Puerto Rican. She was christened Zoe Yadira Saldaña Nazario, reflecting both her parents’ surnames. Saldana also has Lebanese and Haitian roots. With regard to her racial identity, Saldana stated, "There's no one way to be black. I'm black the way I know how to be. " She spent the majority of her early childhood growing up in Jackson Heights, New York. She was raised bilingual, speaking English and Spanish. She has two sisters, Cisely and Mariel. Their father died in a car crash when Zoe was 9 years old, and their mother subsequently moved with the children to the Dominican Republic.