She was born on December 8, 1907, in Michigan to folks by the name of DeLaTaste. But her mother remarried to a marine engineer called Jesse Snyder and her daughter became Claire Snyder. Claire’s family then moved to Portland, Oregon, where she went to Franklin High School.
It seems Claire ended her education abruptly in order to join the circus, an impulsive move that would become a feature of her sometimes chaotic life. Then, during the 1930s, she worked in nightclubs in the Northwest States before joining a performing company that traveled to Hong Kong and Manila.
In the Philippines, Claire met Manuel Fuentes, whose name she took after marrying him in August 1939. Manuel worked on a steamship that sailed around the Philippines, and he and Claire had a daughter together called Dian. After a visit to the U.S. with Dian to see her stepfather, Claire returned to Manila in September 1941.