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Ruiz is generally a hardened realist who doesn't accept any nonsense and is quick to dismiss unrealistic fantasies, such as when Maritza and Flaca are planning Daya's wedding to Bennett, or when Piper tries to build a bridge between them when they are going to be transferred together. Her soft side is generally only seen around her boyfriend, Yadriel, and daughter, Pepa. She is desperate to be a proper mother to her daughter, whom she adores, but who was taken from her immediately after an extremely difficult labor in Season One.
She can be considerate towards others, as seen when she cares for Daya during Daya's first stage of labor, but is quick to remove her care when Daya's ideals do not match with her own and she seemingly doesn't attempt to empathize with the situations of others, focusing almost entirely on getting out so she can be with her baby.
Ruiz is a Latina woman of Dominican heritage, tanned in complexion, with black shoulder-length hair and a medium build.
For a list of episodes featuring Maria's flashbacks, see here.
Before Litchfield Edit
Maria's father was head of a drug ring. He was also very big on Dominican pride and raised Maria to be proud of her heritage. However, he embarrassed her a lot as a teenager.
When she was still in school, she and her friend saw Yadriel running from the police outside her house. Her friend described Yadriel as "that Mexican papi chulo that hangs next to school". She went outside and found the drugs he threw in the brushes and threw them into her window to save him.
Later she goes to the boxing ring to return it to him. They form a relationship, which her father disapproves of because Yadriel is not Dominican and is his "competition." She and her father get into a fight and she tells him "If this is what it means to be Dominican, I'm not going to be Dominican no more!". After that, her father kicks her out of the house and she presumably goes to live with Yadriel.
Maria is introduced as Dayanara Diaz's extremely pregnant bunkmate. She is elected to be the Latina representative for the WAC. When she goes into labor, Gloria Mendoza and Aleida Diaz assist her with the contractions. She gives birth to a girl, who goes to live with her quiet boyfriend, Yadriel. After she returns to Litchfield from the hospital, she is very depressed and sleeps a lot. When Mendoza is assigned to the kitchen, Maria is assigned with her, along with many other inmates in Spanish Harlem.
Yadriel and her baby often visit her and she fawns over her daughter, Pepa ("A Whole Other Hole"). She has six years left on her sentence and she hopes that by the time she gets out, Pepa will recognize her as her mother. Her boyfriend is very stoic during visits, saying very little, but he is unique in that he is the only significant other on the outside who appears to visit regularly.
Maria is one of the prisoners who is earmarked for transfer to a far-away prison, along with Piper Chapman. When a devastated Maria reveals to her boyfriend that she is being sent to another prison much further away, she begs Yadriel that he must speak to Pepa so that the baby doesn't have language difficulties in the future. The very next time Yadriel comes to visit, he is shown speaking much more to the baby, showing he has listened to Maria's request.
In "Mother's Day", Yadriel informs her that he will not be bringing Pepa to visit anymore due to him feeling that the baby is beginning to understand that her mother is in prison. He says this just as they reach the gates of the visitation area, meaning that when he walks away Ruiz is powerless to follow. Her haunted screams follow him out of the building.
In later episodes, she expresses to Aleida that she knows it's not her baby that needs her, it's her that needs her baby, and admits that her boyfriend and his mother are good people and that her baby is fine without her.
Ruiz is kind to Daya when her labor begins, until she realizes that Daya is planning to give the baby away to Delia Powell. She is furious, saying that she'd give anything to see her baby for a single second, and here Daya is giving hers away to a stranger.
The prison gets many new inmates, and most of them are Dominican. Dominicans become the majority and now have more power. At first, Maria wants nothing to do with Dominican pride due to her past problems with her father, but after watching two white girls shove Flores down the stairs, she becomes somewhat of a leader for the Dominicans. Maria starts a new underwear business to compete with Piper's business (Felonious Spunk) after Piper declines to hire the new Dominican inmates. This causes Piper to snitch on her to protect her own interests, which results in Piscatella saying that he's recommending adding 3-5 years to Maria's sentence (which he says to psychologically torture her, he has no authority to increase her sentence).
During Nicky's welcome back party, Maria, severely distressed due to her belief her sentence will be increased and she'll be away from her daughter for even more years, leads the Dominicans inmates in an attack on PIper. They drag her into the kitchen and brand her with a swastika as retaliation for her snitching.
When the rioting begins, Maria joins the women in collecting and humiliating Litchfield staff. However, after she learns that Piscatella's extension recommendation never went through, she chooses to join Alex and the women outside in the counter-movement to avoid potentially ruining her chances of getting out.
She learns that Gloria is frantic with worry about her son Benny's condition and is attempting to get out of the prison early by freeing the hostages, having been offered a deal by Jack Pearson of MCC; Maria tells her that the plan of handing over the hostages was bold, confessing that she herself would go so far as kill someone to be with her child. Without Mendoza's knowledge, Maria releases the hostages in the hope that the deal will be given to her instead. However, she learns through Nita Reddy that the deal was never approved by the Governer's office and MCC had no remit to offer it. Nita allows her five minutes with Yadriel and Pepa before she is taken back into custody.
Maria has been moved to Litchfield Max following the events of Season 5. When talking to investigators who are looking to find the prisoners who led the riot, Ruiz tells them to trust what they already know; that she was the one who got the guards out and that Mendoza was the one who planned the riots. Ruiz takes a plea for planning the riot that adds 10 extra years onto her sentence.
In Litchfield Max, Maria is bullied and abused by the other inmates. This causes her to have an emotional breakdown, during which someone attempts to drown her in a toilet. Later, Beth Hoefler confesses to this, claiming that she saw Ruiz in front of the toilet and felt compelled to drown her. She is discovered lying by the toilet, alive, and it is assumed by the guards that she has attempted suicide. They send her to Psych, following the protocol for attempted suicide. Her near death experience leads to an epiphany and she decides to be a good person and to not seek revenge. She joins a religious group, and one day, her nemesis Piper arrives. She reads her reading and states she doesn't understand it and tries to explain it after. Her and Piper makeup as they joke about Adeola and she signs Piper's kickball petition ("Break the String") She becomes bitter again, and her feelings widely throughout the season. But as the season ends, she decides once again to embrace being a good person, and she works to quash the planned riot/bloodbath at the kickball game, by urging the guard to allow the inmates to pick new captains and new teams.
- Yadriel (boyfriend)
- Dayanara Diaz (friend)
- Marisol Gonzales (friend)
- Maritza Ramos (friend)
- Aleida Diaz (possibly)
- Ramona Contreras
- Linda Ferguson
- Nicky Nichols
- Piper Chapman
- Lolly Whitehill
- Ryder Blake
- Kasey Sankey
- Helen Van Maele
- Desi Piscatella
- Alex Vause
- Blanca Flores
- Piper Chapman (former)
- Gloria Mendoza
- Artesian McCullough
- Jorge Ruiz, also known as "El Leon" (father)
- One year, on Valentine's Day, Yadriel got her flowers he stole from his cousin's funeral, which she finds very sweet, as mentioned in "You Also Have a Pizza".
- When she was younger, she wanted to train to be a dental hygienist to give people confidence, as mentioned in "Power Suit".
- She is one of the several characters who appeared in all episodes of seasons they weren't actually credited regulars.
- "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But fool me seven times, then you deserve what is coming to you"
- — Maria Ruiz, Break the String
- "I may be a criminal and a piece of shit and all that, but I love my baby. I stay alive for my baby. And that ain't gonna change."
- — Maria Ruiz, Changing Winds
|Orange Is the New Black: Season One|
|"I Wasn't Ready":||"Tit Punch":||"Lesbian Request Denied":||"Imaginary Enemies":||"The Chickening":||"WAC Pack":||"Blood Donut":|
|"Moscow Mule":||"Fucksgiving":||"Bora Bora Bora":||"Tall Men with Feelings":||"Fool Me Once":||"Can't Fix Crazy":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Two|
|"Thirsty Bird":||"Looks Blue, Tastes Red":||"Hugs Can Be Deceiving":||"A Whole Other Hole":||"Low Self Esteem City":||"You Also Have a Pizza":||"Comic Sans":|
|"Appropriately Sized Pots":||"40 Oz. of Furlough":||"Little Mustachioed Shit":||"Take a Break From Your Values":||"It Was the Change":||"We Have Manners. We're Polite.":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Three|
|"Mother's Day":||"Bed Bugs and Beyond":||"Empathy Is a Boner Killer":||"Finger in the Dyke":||"Fake It Till You Fake It Some More":||"Ching Chong Chang":||"Tongue-Tied":|
|"Fear, and Other Smells":||"Where My Dreidel At":||"A Tittin' and a Hairin'":||"We Can Be Heroes":||"Don't Make Me Come Back There":||"Trust No Bitch":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Four|
|"Work That Body for Me":||"Power Suit":||"(Don't) Say Anything":||"Doctor Psycho":||"We'll Always Have Baltimore":||"Piece of Shit":||"It Sounded Nicer in My Head":|
|"Friends in Low Places":||"Turn Table Turn":||"Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull":||"People Persons":||"The Animals":||"Toast Can't Never Be Bread Again":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Five|
|"Riot FOMO":||"Fuck, Marry, Frieda":||"Pissters!":||"Litchfield's Got Talent":||"Sing It, White Effie":||"Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally":||"Full Bush, Half Snickers":|
|"Tied to the Tracks":||"The Tightening":||"The Reverse Midas Touch":||"Breaking the Fiberboard Ceiling":||"Tattoo You":||"Storm-y Weather":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Six|
|"Who Knows Better Than I":||"Shitstorm Coming":||"Look Out for Number One":||"I'm the Talking Ass":||"Mischief Mischief":||"State of the Uterus":||"Changing Winds":|
|Appears||Appears||Appears||Credit Only||Appears||Credit Only||Appears|
|"Gordons":||"Break the String":||"Chocolate Chip Nookie":||"Well This Took a Dark Turn":||"Double Trouble":||"Be Free":|