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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.
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 because he feels 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. She tries to talk to Vazquez and Crystal Tawney but they dismiss her and berate her for letting the hostages free. This causes her to have an emotional breakdown, during which someone attempts to drown her in a toilet.
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. Lolly talks to her thinking that the Chinese tried to kill her. Lolly refers to the Psych staff as "manticores'. Lolly thinks that someone is trying to silence her. She lists out the possible people to kill her. Maria explains that she was going to let her self die when she couldnt breathe. Suddenly, Sharon calls her for her Psych evaluation. She has to lie to the Psychiatric examiner and state that she did try to kill herself. She goes on to say that she would never do that to her daughter in a heartfelt speech. She is discharged. 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 after being told she was baptised by the lord by Sharon Chamberlain. She scoffs and doesn't believe her originally. When she returns, Daya sits beside her and Maria warns her she won't be popular sitting beside her. Daya states she doesn't care and Maria berates her after realising she's high. ("Changing Winds")
One day, her nemesis Piper arrives. She reads her reading and states she doesn't understand it and tries to explain it after. She and Piper make up after they reminisce about when Piper first arrived at Litchfield. Maria is asked to sign Piper's petition and does before seeing the branding she put on Piper. They then joke about Adeola and her passion for the Cult of the Holy Virgin which is secret and "only women can join" ("Break the String")
Maria approaches Gloria and tells her she forgives her for giving her extra time. Gloria thinks that Maria should be the one apologising after she took away Gloria's chance to see her child. Gloria then threatens to hit her if she doesn't walk away. This likely motivated Maria to become bitter again. Ryder Blake comes up to Maria and asks her why she isn't going to service as he's noticed she always goes. She states that she wants to strangle someone and he reminds her he's a CO. To motivate her, he talks about a bird story, he threw a rock at a bird and it got injured and his mother made him nurse her back to health. The motto of the story is forgiveness and to be kind. Then he leaves and gives her a shot for being without her Inmate ID. ("Well This Took a Dark Turn")
This ended up working as she went to the prayer group, with Adeola, Sharon Chamberlain and Beth Hoefler also attending. She leads a prayer about forgiveness which inspires Beth to open up about something, the fact she was the one who drowned Maria. Maria lashes out. Sharon tries to calm down Maria who asks if Beth drowned her babies in the toilet. Maria gets mad at Sharon for making her believe she was baptised and she storms off. ("Well This Took a Dark Turn")
After Maria attempts to leave, Jarod Young stops her saying that if he has to go through this, so does she. She is recruited by Annalisa Damiva during the PolyCon video to be in the gang war. ("Double Trouble") She tells Crystal Tawney that she is no longer on the team. Later, they go outside and Daya throws a rock at a crow. Maria comforts it as it flies away. This reminds her of Ryder Blake's story and she decides to be a good person. She goes over to Artesian McCullough and asks her to mix up the teams, as McCullough as worried she readies her baton and thinks that Maria is threatening her. She reminds Maria that she hurt her during the riot. Maria says she's trying to be a good person in this moment. Maria asks where Piper is and Zirconia tells her that Piper got out. However, she complies and thanks to Maria (and McCullough as well as Eckelcamp) the gang war didn't happen.
Maria joins the Restorative Justice program, meanwhile she learns after a visit with Yadriel that he has entered in a relationship with another woman, and is even considering moving in with her. This upsets Maria greatly, and she lashes out at Yadriel, leaving a bitter patch between the two.
- Yadriel (boyfriend)
- Manuel (affair/side piece)
- Dayanara Diaz (friend)
- Marisol Gonzales (questionable) - Although Maria has never had a full-on grudge with Flaca, she doesn't particularly like her, regarding her as an annoying prescenece, frequently making fun of her and insulting her, resulting in one near-fight after Flaca retaliates by bringing Maria's family in the arguement.
- Maritza Ramos (friend)
- Aleida Diaz (possibly)
- Ramona Contreras
- Linda Ferguson - Maria takes a particularly liking to Ferguson's "Amelia Von Barlow" identity, seeing her as more honest than the other white girls.
- Nicky Nichols
- Piper Chapman (neutral) - Maria and Chapman have had a complicated history, intially being fine with each other especially when Piper comforts her when it seems like the two are being transferred to Virginia. However, when she starts a gang in Season Four, Piper and Maria become rivals, resulting in Piper inadvertently getting Maria extra time (although this is later revealed to have been Piscatella psychologically torturing Maria as he had no real authority to get her extra time).
- Lolly Whitehill - Maria befriends Lolly while she's stuck in Psych.
- Ryder Blake - He empathasizes with her, giving her advice on the morality of people and learning to forgive others, and jokingly gives her a shot for not having her ID on.
- Kasey Sankey (complicated; hatchet buried) - After Kasey attacks Blanca in the stairwell (and generally being racist), Maria and her gang jumps her and beat her in the salon. Later during the riot, Maria seems to have put aside her resentment towards the White Power Group, even putting them in charge of rounding up the guards.
- Brandy (complicated; hatchet buried) - Due to her association with the White Power group, Maria has a resentment towards Brandy, although during the riot this seems to be put aside for the greater good of the prison, even putting her and the other white supremacists in charge of rounding up any guards.
- Desi Piscatella (former; deceased) - Tricked her into believing he was going to add more years to her sentence, and is a general adversary to her gang.
- Blanca Flores (former; hatchet buried) - Although Blanca was a loyal member of Maria's gang, after the riot she becames to harbor resentment towards Blanca when she thinks that her and Gloria ratted her out in exchange for less time (which is true to some extent). Later when she begins working in the ICE Kitchen, Maria is shocked to see Blanca, but remarks sincerely, "So many opportunities to continue my work".
- Gloria Mendoza (former; hatchet buried) - Their long friendship with each other ended when, after learning about Gloria's "deal", hjacks her plan and releases the guards herself. While being held in AdSeg, she attacks Gloria during their rec time, and later tries to throw her under the bus while the authorities are questioning her about the riot. Maria tries to make ammends by saying she "forgives her", much to Gloria's anger. After her time in Restorative Justice, she once again tries to make ammends to Gloria, several times before eventually arguing with her, but this is cut short after Gloria's phone is discovered by Bell. During the questioning for the phone, Maria pleads to Gloria to not blame her for the phone, which Gloria sympathethically albeit begrudeonly follows up on when she takes the fall for the phone. In the finale, after Gloria is released, she sends her Mi Burro, Mi Burro, which she reads to Pepa during a visit.
- Artesian McCullough (former; hatchet buried) - Maria torments Artesian throughout the riot, and as a result Artesian develops severe PTSD, self-harming tendencies, and now harbors a dark hatred for the inmates, especially Maria. She raids Maria's new Max bunk for no reason, and then assaults her. In the courtyard, Artesian has a nervous breakdown and lashed out violently at Maria. During the kickball game, Maria tries to make ammends by warning her of the impending danger between C and D Block. Despite resistance, Artesian complies, and thanks to the two, they saved many of the lives of women.
- Beth Hoefler (complicated) - Beth and Maria seemed to get along fine, but after Beth revealed she tried to drown Maria, they have been in a rough patch ever since, despite Beth trying to make ammends with her.
- Pepa (Daughter) - Maria's love for her daughter has no bounds, even saying she's willing to die for Pepa at one point.
- 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.
- Jessica Pimentel, who plays Maria, is the lead singer of a heavy-metal band called Alekhine's Gun.
- "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
- "We're not a family. We're a band-aid, and once you rip it off, all we are to each other is scars."
- — Maria Ruiz, Empathy Is a Boner Killer
- "I am going to bury you! You're never coming back from this. Never."
- — Maria Ruiz, Piece of Sh*t
- "Welcome to Litchfield 2.0! Still busted-ass, but getting better by the minute."
- — Maria Ruiz, F*ck, Marry, Frieda
|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":|
|Orange Is the New Black: Season Seven|
|"Beginning of the End":||"Just Desserts":||"And Brown Is the New Orange":||"How to Do Life":||"Minority Deport":||"Trapped in an Elevator":||"Me as Well":|
|Credit Only||Appears||Credit Only||Appears||Credit Only||Appears||Credit Only|
|"Baker's Dozen":||"The Hidey Hole":||"The Thirteenth":||"God Bless America":||"The Big House":||"Here's Where We Get Off":|
|Credit Only||Credit Only||Appears||Appears||Appears||Appears|