Emma Chaves was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Puerto Rican parents. At the age of 12 she moved with her mother and sister to the mountain town of Lares, Puerto Rico, for health reasons. She later moved to Miami with her husband. She was the Center Director and Community Developer for the Community Action Agency in the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood of Wynwood. Emma has a Master of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Miami. Emma has been active in several Puerto Rican community organizations and was one of the founders of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women-Miami.