- "Family is all."
- ―Tio giving his nephews a lesson
Don Hector "Tio" Salamanca was a drug runner and the former right hand man and enforcer of Don Eladio Vuente. Hector was a high-ranking member of the Juárez Cartel, the patriach of the Salamanca family, and was feared among most in the South. He was the son of Abuelita, the uncle of Tuco, Marco and Leonel Salamanca, as well as the grandfather of Joaquin Salamanca.
Hector was rendered invalid possibly from a stroke or some form of motor neuron disease; such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig's disease, it is implied that it was indeed a stroke as evidenced by Frank Gomez's comment when referring to Tio, "stroke or no stroke, old school gang-bang Mexicans don't help feds". He harbored a disgust for the DEA, and a specific dislike for Agent Hank Schrader. In his later life, he lived in a retirement home called Casa Tranquila, where he was visited frequently by Gustavo Fring. He was killed with Fring in the Casa Tranquilla explosion. He serves as a minor antagonist for seasons two, three and four. Since then, Hector has appeared on the prequel series Better Call Saul as one of the two primary antagonists in season two.
Hector Salamanca was a high-ranking member of the Juárez Cartel and was referred to, even in his infirmity, as "Don Salamanca" by contemporary cartel leaders like Juan Bolsa. He was the most feared of the Dons and was the patriarch of the Salamanca familia, being the uncle to Tuco, Marco and Leonel. At one point in his life, Hector was incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison for 17 years and refused to cooperate once with the authorities ("Bit by a Dead Bee"). A flashback revealed that he was working for Don Eladio at the time Gustavo Fring made an overture toward the cartel circa 1989. Tio is seen discussing on the phone how the cartel should deal with Gus, who he disparaged young Gus as the "Chicken Man," when he warned, "Never trust a South American." Shortly after this conversation, Hector teaches his nephews, Marco and Leonel, a brutal life lessons such as "family is all" by nearly drowning Marco until Leonel punched him in the face ("One Minute").Don Eladio eventually elected to receive Gus and his partner, Max Arciniega, at his home to discuss a deal. Both Hector and Juan Bolsa are present at the meeting, the negotiation seems to be fine until Don Eladio mentions how Gus and Max disrespected the cartel by selling drugs to two henchmen in order to call the Don's attention. As the duo do everything in their power to calm down Don Eladio, Hector shoots Max in the head in front of Gus. Then, as Juan Bolsa holds Gus down to the floor, both Don Eladio and Hector proceeded to taunt him, saying that his place is taking care of the chicken and not the drugs. Gus holds an enormous hatred for the cartel because of this action, but mainly for Hector Salamanca, because he was the one who pulled the trigger on his partner ("Hermanos").
Hector aged before his years and is always confined to his wheelchair and oxygen tank because of a possible stroke he suffered on the following years. He never speaks a syllable, using only a brass service bell taped onto his wheelchair armrest to communicate. Generally, one bell means 'yes', zero bells means 'no', but sometimes Hector is able to get his message across with a flurry of bell rings and the expression on his face. If Salamanca has a message to be spelled out, an aide at his home will use a specialized alpha-numeric card that allows him to spell words in conjunction with his bell.
Better Call Saul
Hector meets with Mike Ehrmantraut on behalf of his nephew. He requests that Mike tells the police that he was the one who owned the gun, not Tuco, as Mike, being ex-police, won't be punished heavily. He tells him that he wants what's best for each party and will make Tuco apologize for what he did. He also will give him $5000 in cash if Mike does as he says. He leaves the restaurant without any response from Mike, and tells him to think about it. ("Rebecca")
Hector sends one of his men to make sure Mike has accepted his offer, but Mike declines and walks inside. Later that night, he checks the contact paper under the welcome mat of his home and notices footprints and subdues two of Hector's men (one of which was the stranger sitting on his steps) after tricking them by turning on the TV. They admit to being sent by Hector to scare Mike but he chases them off. After Mike sees The Cousins standing on an adjacent rooftop and making a gun signal at Mike's granddaughter Kaylee, Mike meets with Hector to talk over the deal of admitting to the police that the gun was his and not Tuco's. However not being one to take things lying down, Mike demands $50,000 which Hector agrees to pay him. ("Bali Ha'i")
Mike secretly begins staking out Hector's drug operation, looking for a weakness to exploit. In due time, Mike attacks an ice cream truck transporting drug money for Hector. ("Nailed")
Hector is first seen when Tuco brings Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to a hideout in the desert, following a crackdown on Tuco's drug operation by the Albuquerque DEA. While Tio appears to be senile, fixated only on the television, he gradually reveals his mind is still sharp and he can ring his bell to communicate with his nephew. After he sees Walt put poison in Tuco's burrito, he rings the bell prompting Tuco to give it to him instead (thinking Tio wanted the bigger burrito), only for Tio to knock it to the floor and point murderously toward Walt.
He gets Tuco's attention again after the meal by continually ringing his bell. He communicates that he does not trust Walt and Jesse, and Tuco drags Jesse outside, beating him until Walt admits they tried to poison him. Tuco is then killed by Hank Schrader, who was searching for Walt and accidentally found Tuco's hideout. Although Walt and Jesse escape, as a result of this encounter Hector learns Walt's name and what Jesse looks like; Tuco had read their names out loud to him off their driver's licenses, and showed Hector a picture of Walt's family ("Seven Thirty-Seven").
As the investigation into Tuco's death continues, Hank and Steven Gomez bring in Hector to see if he can confirm that Jesse was present at the shooting since his car was discovered there. Tio proves he is still cognizant of his surroundings by ringing his bell to simple questions, but when asked if Jesse was there he simply voids his bowels. Afterwards, Gomez explains that Salamanca is an "old-school gangbang Mexican" who spent 17 years in prison without once cooperating with authorities, and they will get nothing from him even if it would incriminate Jesse ("Grilled").
With no one to take care of him anymore, Hector is moved to an Albuquerque-area nursing home. He is then visited by his nephews, Marco and Leonel. Familiar with the routine, they procure a Ouija board from a pile of board games and Hector uses his bell to spell out the letters of the real name of the meth cook the cartel knows only as Heisenberg, the man that killed their cousin Tuco: Walter White. Marco and Leonel move to Walt's house to execute him immediately, but are called off by a last second text message: "POLLOS" ("Caballo Sin Nombre").
Following this incident, Bolsa arranges a meeting between Gus, Hector, Marco, Leonel and himself. Juan is clearly uncomfortable in the same room with Hector and his family, and it is only due to Hector's ill health that he agreed to mediate. He explains to Gus that Don Salamanca saw Tuco as a son and groomed him to take his place in the organization, and that Walt's betrayal of Tuco has earned him a death sentence sanctioned by the Salamanca family and the Cartel—an assertion Hector emphasizes with one ring of his bell. When Gus says that he needs Walt alive for the time being, Hector angrily rings his bell many times ("I.F.T.").
Gus eventually leads Marco and Leonel into trying to kill Hank instead of Walt ("Sunset"), but he anonymously warns Hank about the upcoming attack one minute before their arrival, so Hank has enough time to dispatch both brothers ("One Minute"). Marco dies instantly, Leonel is seriously injured and taken to the hospital, where he is finally put down by Mike Ehrmantraut on Gus' orders. The same night, the police raid Juan Bolsa's mansion and he is accidentally killed in the process, it is later revealed that this was all orchestrated by Gus in his plan to avenge Max's death at the hands of the cartel ("I See You").
In a flashback following the events of Marco, Leonel and Juan Bolsa's deaths, Gus pays a visit to Hector in the nursing home. He victoriously describes to Hector how Marco and Leonel were killed, obviously pointing out that he was behind everything. He also reports about Juan Bolsa's death, and how the cartel cannot interfere in his business anymore because of the heat caused by Hector's nephews trying to attack a federal agent. "This is what comes of 'blood for blood,'" says Gus, repeating Bolsa's own phrase. Back to present times, the cartel is back after a long absence, attacking Gus' delivery trucks and ordering him to give their business north of the border back to them. Gus visits Hector again at the nursing home, he informs Tio that he has defied the Cartel's ultimatum and that Hank is looking into Gus's past. "Is today the day, Hector?" Gus asks Tio cryptically. Gus leans in close to Hector. "Look at me, Hector," he commands, but Hector stubbornly refuses. "Maybe next time," taunts Gus, leaving Hector to silently rage in his chair ("Hermanos").
Gus travels to Mexico to give the cartel the formula of his successful product, the blue sky, but it was all part of his plan to poison all the major members of the cartel, including Don Eladio himself ("Salud"). After returning to New Mexico, Gus takes Jesse to meet Hector at the nursing home so they can tell him what has taken place: Don Eladio and all the others are dead. Gus also tells him that Jesse killed Joaquin Salamanca, Hector's grandson and the last remaining member of the Salamanca family. Gus dangles Don Eladio's amulet necklace in Hector's face and says "look at me!" When Hector refuses, Gus places the necklace into the last Don's shirt pocket. Hector will now spend his final days in sorrow for the death of everyone he knew and loved, all of them murdered at the hands of Gus; Gus' revenge was almost complete ("Crawl Space").
At this point, Walt was desperately searching for a way to kill Gus before Gus could kill him. Through Jesse, Walt learns about Gus' rivalry with Hector and sees an opportunity. Walt stops by the nursing home and convinces Hector to aid him in assassinating Gus, pointing out that as much as Hector despises Walt, he hates Gus more. After going through the plan with Walt, Hector calls for a nurse and demands to talk to the DEA, specifically with Hank. He is taken to the DEA's office, where all the major agents of the Albuquerque Department are present to hear what he has to say. When Hank finally arrives and they can start their conversation, Hector does nothing but insult Hank, giving the DEA no information. However, the fact that Hector visited the DEA at all prompts Gus (who is under heavy investigation by the DEA and now believes Hector is an informant) to take one step ahead on his plan to avenge Max. Tyrus Kitt, one of Gus' henchmen, pays a visit to Hector's room to make sure there are no bugs planted by the DEA. When he leaves, Walt comes in and they execute their final part on their plan to get rid of Gus.
A few minutes later, Gus himself arrives in Hector's room. Gus calls Hector a rat, and tells him that this is how he's going to die, a "crippled ratta." Hector is given the opportunity to look Gus in the eyes for the last time, which Hector stubbornly refuses once again. As Gus is about to inject Hector with a lethal medication, Hector finally looks him in the eyes. Gus is shocked with Hector's bravery and he also notices that something is wrong as Hector starts to ring his bell repeatedly, Gus realizes what is about to happen and tries to run a bit too late: Hector's bell triggers the explosion of the pipe bomb attached to his wheelchair, killing all in the room, including himself. A few seconds later, Gus steps out of the room, seemingly unharmed, and adjusts his tie. The camera pans, and it is revealed that Gus' face was blown in half, and he finally dies ("Face Off").
As a high ranking member of Juárez Cartel, Hector Salamanca is a cold, cruel, sadistic, brutal and highly intelligent man. Hector is blindly loyal to the Cartel and is well respected by many and feared by others. Hector's loyalty to the Cartel is so strong that he refused to cooperate once with the authorities while spending 17 years in prison for Cartel-related activities and even refused to tell the DEA, one of the Cartel's primary enemies, of Jesse Pinkman's presence at his residence after he and Walter White were taken hostage by Hector's nephew Tuco. Hector's hatred and disrespect of the DEA is very evident as he defecates instead of answering their questions and openly insulted Hank Schrader during his last meeting with them.
Hector is also shown to be a completely remorseless, cold blooded murderer who will kill anyone he is ordered to as shown when he mercilessly killed Max Arciniega on Don Eladio's orders and also anyone whom he views as a threat to his own goals as revealed when he killed a completely innocent bystander for helping one of his drivers after he was tied up and robbed by Mike. It appears that he is not above killing children either as he threatened Mike that he would send his nephews to kill his daughter-in-law and young granddaughter after Mike demanded money from him. Hector occasionally is shown to have a sick, twisted sense of humor as shown during interactions with Max and Gus and also Mike.
Despite his evil nature, Hector appears to care deeply for his family, most notably his nephews whom he personally raised to be loyal to the Cartel just like himself. Hector seems to value family very much as he taught his young nephews Marco and Leonel a brutal lesson of the importance of family by attempting to drown Marco until Leonel fought hard enough to save him. It is also revealed that he thought of Tuco as a son and was devastated so strongly by his death that he sent Marco and Leonel to exact revenge on Walter White for his part in Tuco's death, though the two would fail at this task. Hector was also devastated by the deaths of Marco and Leonal during their attempt to kill Hank and also his grandson Joaquin, his last remaining relative.
Hector had a barely concealed hatred for Gus from the moment he met him and joyfully killed Max as revenge for Gus' actions of manipulating Eladio into a meeting and hated of the Cartel's decision to work with him. Hector's hatred of Gus was so strong that he willingly assisted Walter White in killing him as revenge for the deaths of his Cartel allies and family members by suicide bombing him and killing himself in the process.
Murders committed by Tio
- Max Arciniega: Shot once in the head on orders from Don Eladio Vuente. ("Hermanos")
- One innocent bystander: Shot in the face for assisting one of his drivers after being tied up and robbed by Mike. ("Nailed")
- Gustavo Fring: Blown up in revenge for killing all his family and members of the Juárez Cartel. ("Face Off")
- Tyrus Kitt: Blown up along with Gus. ("Face Off")
Murders connected to Tio
Deaths connected to Tio
- Himself: Voluntarily blew himself up. Walter supplied the bomb. ("Face Off")
- "Hello, Hector. All of them, Hector. Don Eladio, Don Paco, Cesar, Reynaldo, Ortuno, Cisco, and Luis. Escalara. All dead. As is your grandson, Joaquin. Do you know who killed Joaquin? Would you like to see? This young man. Do you remember him? That young man shot Joaquin to death while I made my escape. I believe you have met him before. It was just you and Joaquin. He was the only family you had left. Now the Salamanca name dies with you. Will you look at me now? Look at me, Hector. Look at me."
- ―Gustavo Fring
- Margolis based the characters facial expressions primarily on his mother-in-law who had suffered a stroke.
- He was originally supposed to be the main antagonist of Season 3.
- "Tio" is Spanish for "Uncle".
- Tio's bell sold for $26,750 at auction October 8th 2013