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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 was taken from her immediately after an extremely difficult labor.
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 seemingly doesn't attempt to empathize with the situations of others.
Physical Appearance Edit
Ruiz is a Latina woman, 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 the rest of the 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 would 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 the national 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 rejected hiring 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.
During Nicky's welcome back party, Maria, along with other Dominicans, drag Piper into the kitchen in order to brand her with a swastika, as retaliation.
When the rioting begins, Maria joins the women in the collection of Litchfield staff and humiliation. 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 as far as kill someone to be with her child. Without Mendoza's knowledge, Maria releases the hostages with the hopes that the "deal" would 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.
- Yadriel (boyfriend)
- Blanca Flores (best friend)
- Dayanara Diaz (friend)
- Marisol Gonzales (friend)
- Maritza Ramos (friend)
- Aleida Diaz (possibly)
- Ramona Contreras
- Linda Ferguson
- Piper Chapman
- Kasey Sankey
- Helen Van Maele
- Desi Piscatella
- Alex Vause
- Gloria Mendoza (possibly former)
- 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.