Margarita Ruiz: a driving force for MS rights in Cuba
The global MS movement remembers Margarita Ruiz, founder and honorary president of MS Cuba.
Last updated: 16th September 2022
All those who knew Margarita Ruiz, founder and honorary president of MS Cuba, remember her bold spirit and love for life, even in the face of illness and significant physical limitations.
Since her youth, Margarita made it her mission to live life to the fullest. At just 19 years old, she left her native Havana in Cuba behind to study in what was the Soviet Union. Without knowing the language or even passing the usual preparatory course, she managed to study Electrical Engineering and graduate with a specialty in Automation and Telemechanics at the Moscow Energy Institute (1969), a prestigious and challenging university with few female graduates at the time.
Upon her return to her homeland, she became the founder of the Atomic Energy Commission of Cuba (entity for studies with peaceful purposes), as well as the Executive Secretary for Nuclear Affairs (SEAN).
She was a diplomat in Peru and an official of the Committee for Mutual Economic Assistance (CAME) in the 70s and 80s.
After many years of sensory symptoms, epilepsy and more, she was diagnosed with MS in 1986.
At that point Margarita realized that people with MS in Cuba were facing the challenge of living with MS, in addition to a lack of knowledge about it, even amongst those in the medical community. She began her fight to unite people with MS, empowering them to learn more about the disease, help each other and above all, as she always said: ‘improve the quality of life of people with MS’.
In 1994, after overcoming a thousand bureaucratic obstacles, she managed to create the first officially recognised MS organisation of its kind in Cuba, and was elected as its president. The organisation was called then: Multiple Sclerosis Group of Cuba. In 2003 the group reorganised, and renamed themselves ‘Multiple Sclerosis Cuba’.
In 2013, given the increase in her physical disability, Margarita was appointed as the
Honorary Founding President, a position that she long held and continued her “passion” for working towards her initial goal of improving the lives of people with MS.
During these years she was also a member of the Board of Directors for the launch of the Latin American MS association, ULASEM.
In 2001, she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Economy and Management of Non-Profit Entities (2001) from the University of Barcelona.
As if that were not enough, she wrote a book of scientific stories for children, “Stories of granny Science” and another autobiographical one about her story fighting MS, called ’And it is beautiful to live’. A documentary was shot in 2003 based on the latter, recounting her story.
Although she fought for the right in her country to have a dignified death, without excessive medical intervention when a person so decides, she was always a defender of life. Her end was as she predicted twenty years before in her book and documentary,and even in her last moments she believed that ‘life is beautiful and it is beautiful to live’.
Despite severe disability, she managed to maintain a full and active life. She had three children who gave her 6 grandchildren.
Margarita Ruiz Peraza passed away on August 17 2021.
Sclerosis Multiple Cuba will carry out a posthumous tribute in her honour on September 21, 2022
This obituary was written by Margarita’s beloved daughter Natasha Vázquez Ruiz
You can watch the documentary about Margarita’s life ‘Y es bello vivir’, here: