Nobody moves crystal in the South Valley but me, bitch!
― Tuco Salamanca after beating up Jesse Pinkman[src]

Alberto "Tuco" Salamanca was a psychotic, high-ranking Mexican drug dealer, who ran the Cartel's meth operation in Albuquerque. He would briefly became Walter White and Jesse Pinkman's meth distributor. He was the grandson of Abuelita and nephew of Don Hector Salamanca, one of the most powerful members of the Juárez Cartel. Tuco also had four cousins involved in criminal activities: Lalo, Marco, Leonel and Joaquin Salamanca.

Ruthless, unpredictable, and prone to violent outbursts, Tuco nevertheless respected Walter because of his superior product, intelligence, business style, and guts.

After beating his associate, No-Doze, to death for disrespecting him in front of Walt and Jesse and following the death of his lieutenant Gonzo, Tuco would be forced to go on the run from the DEA. He personally kidnapped Walt and Jesse in order to bring them to Mexico with him to cook and produce their superior meth for the Cartel. However the two were able to injure him and escape and ultimately Tuco was killed after a shootout with DEA agent Hank Schrader, Walt's brother-in-law.

History

Background information

Tuco was born in Mexico and was raised by his uncle Hector, alongside his cousins Lalo, Marco and Leonel, and Joaquin as a member of the Juárez Cartel. Tuco eventually traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico and worked alongside is uncle at his drug distribution business. He employed No-Doze, his brother-in-law Gonzo and Nacho Varga as his closet associates and lieutenants and employed a number of street-level dealers, including Domingo Molina.

Tuco eventually descended into a life of severe drug abuse and over time gradually became mentally unstable whenever high on meth. In 1998 he personally killed Dog Paulson, one of his dealers, for no apparent reason other than suspected thievery by shooting him in the face with a sawed-off shotgun in front of Nacho.

Better Call Saul

Season 1

Tuco is at his grandmother's house cooking food for her when she arrives followed by the twin brothers, Lars and Cal Lindholm. They claim that Tuco's grandmother ran over one of them in her car and then tried to drive off, so they followed her home. One of the brothers call her "biznatch", which deeply offends Tuco. He calmly convinces his grandmother to go upstairs and watch her soap opera and then proceeds to beat down both brothers. As he is cleaning the blood from the floor, Tuco calls one of his goons, telling him to bring "the van." Another man knocks on the door claiming to be an "officer of the court", Tuco grabs a gun from the top of a bookshelf and forces the man inside at gunpoint ("Uno")("Mijo").

Tuco closes a deal with Jimmy ("Mijo")

The man presents himself as a lawyer named Jimmy McGill. He tries to explain to Tuco that he received a call from his clients claiming that they had an accident. Jimmy convinces Tuco to let him and the twins go but, when he is about to cut them loose, Lars tells Tuco that the accident was all planned and it was all Jimmy's idea. Tuco and his associates, Gonzo, No-Doze and Nacho Varga take Jimmy and the twins out to the desert. Tuco tries to interrogate Jimmy to find out if he's working for the government. Jimmy explains that he was planning a scheme to bring down one of his former clients but the twins accidentally confused the target with Tuco's grandmother. Still not convinced, Tuco threatens to torture Jimmy, but Nacho convinces Tuco that he is speaking the truth and they decide to let him go.

Even so, Tuco still plans to torture the twins to death because of the way they disrespected his grandmother. After an intense negotiation, Jimmy manages to convince Tuco not to kill the boys, but only to break one leg of each one so he can send a message. ("Mijo").

Season 2

Nacho grows increasingly worried at Tuco's erratic behavior over the months, so he meets Mike Ehrmantraut to offer him a job. He wants Mike to kill Tuco for a large sum of money, explaining to Mike that Tuco might kill him if he finds out about Nacho's side business not involving the Salamancas. Nacho tells the story of when Tuco killed one of his closest friends, Dawg Paulson, by shooting him in the face with a shotgun only because he slightly suspected the man was ripping him off. Mike decides not to kill Tuco, but comes up with a plan to have Tuco arrested instead, this way Nacho will be free from the Salamancas to continue transacting his own business. They plan to do it at El Michoacáno, a restaurant where Tuco and Nacho meet their drug dealers to collect money from their sales.

Tuco confronts Mike Ehrmantraut ("Gloves Off")

The next day, while Tuco and Nacho are sitting inside the restaurant meeting their dealers like they usually do, Mike tips off the police that a fight is happening there. He then quickly pulls over his car in front of the restaurant, intentionally scrapping Tuco's car with his front bumper before parking. Tuco notices the collision and approaches Mike when he enters the restaurant to buy something, calling him out for hitting his car. Mike denies having done any such thing and leaves after buying food. Tuco follows Mike outside and keeps demanding that he pay for the damage. Mike offers to swap insurance information but Tuco declines; he wants cash. Mike says he doesn't have any but Tuco says he saw Mike's wallet full of money when he was buying food. He then threatens Mike with a gun and takes his wallet from him. The sound of police sirens in the distance alert Nacho, who decides to jump in his van and drive off. After taking Mike's money and giving the empty wallet back to him, Tuco also decides to run off, but Mike grabs him by the collar of his shirt to prevent him from escaping. Tuco tries pulling his gun, but Mike successfully slaps it off his hand, so Tuco starts punching him in the face, telling him to let go. Mike clenches his fist to Tuco's shirt and refuses to do so. The police arrive and surround them, telling them to stop fighting. Tuco stops attacking Mike, but Mike taunts Tuco so he will continue the assault, which ends up working as Tuco punches Mike unconscious while laughing maniacally. ("Gloves Off")

The plan works and Tuco is arrested, potentially facing ten years in jail for assaulting a senior citizen and carrying an illegal weapon. However, much to Mike's disdain, he is visited by Don Hector Salamanca a few days later, Tuco's uncle and powerful member of the mexican cartel. Don Hector offers Mike $5000 if he tells the police that the gun found on the scene was Mike's and not Tuco's, as this would reduce Tuco's potential jail time considerably. At first, Mike refuses, but after being constantly harassed by the Salamancas, he eventually agrees to tell the police that the gun was his on the condition of raising his price to $50,000. ("Rebecca")("Bali Ha'i")

Season 3

While talking to Nacho inside the restaurant, Don Hector learns from Arturo that Tuco has been placed in solitary at Los Lunas after stabbing another prisoner and assaulting one of the prison guards. ("Off Brand")

Season 5

While talking to Hector, Lalo, who has to flee back to Mexico, states that Tuco will be out of prison in eleven months and can thus take over the Salamanca operations at that point. Knowing what Tuco is like while high, Lalo reassures Hector that they will have someone keep an eye on Tuco to make sure he stays clean. ("Bad Choice Road")

When Lalo brings Nacho Varga before Don Eladio for a promotion, he introduces Nacho as a friend of Tuco's. Apparently aware of Tuco's insanity, Don Eladio jokingly asks Nacho if he's alright in the head. ("Something Unforgivable")

Breaking Bad

Tuco's mugshot.

After being released from prison a couple years prior to Breaking Bad, Tuco takes over the remnants of his uncle's drug distribution business and employees a number of operatives and establishes his own headquarters.

His operation is extremely successful and he becomes a key man for the Cartel's operations north of the border and gradually he becomes one of the most powerful and influential dealers in Albuquerque.

Season 1

When Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are in search of a distribution network for their meth following the death of Krazy-8, Jesse's friend and Tuco's former cell mate at Los Lunas Skinny Pete tells him about Tuco. Skinny Pete and Jesse find themselves in Tuco's hideout with a pound of Walt's meth, believing they will be able to negotiate a deal with Tuco. Tuco's henchmen frisk them and lead them to Tuco's office.

Tuco threatening Jesse ("Crazy Handful of Nothin'")

After being shown the meth, Tuco invites Jesse to snort some of the product to prove he isn't a cop, before snorting some himself off the tip of a knife. Tuco is extremely impressed by the quality of the meth and says he'll buy it on consignment. Jesse begins to realize Tuco does not wish to pay the $35,000 for the product, and Tuco threatens Jesse and Skinny Pete with a knife after Skinny Pete tries to intervene in the negotiation. Desperate, Jesse tries to book it with the meth but is stopped by Tuco's armed guards. Tuco appears to be okay with Jesse's escape attempt, even offering Jesse the $35,000 he wants "up front." He stuffs stacks of cash from his safe into a bag holds it out to Jesse, but when Jesse reaches for the bag, Tuco uses the bag to beat him into the floor mercilessly.

After Walt learns of the events that occurred in the hideout, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Arriving at the hideout, he presents himself as "Heisenberg" to Tuco. Walt gives Tuco another bag of crystals and asks for $50,000, Tuco laughs at the offer, saying that Walt is not doing the math correctly. Walt explains to Tuco that $35,000 is for the meth that Tuco stole, and another $15,000 is for Jesse's pain and suffering. Tuco realizes that Walt and Jesse are partners and then ridicules Walt for bringing him yet another pound of meth after he stole Walt's first batch. "This is not meth," Walt corrects him, as he hurls a piece of the crystal at the floor, causing an explosion and leaving the hideout in ruin—Walter has substituted his meth with crystallized fulminated mercury. With the rest of the bag of explosives in his possession, Walt threatens to throw the entire bag and kill himself and everyone in the room. Tuco is impressed by Walt's "balls" and he tells Walt that he's won his respect and agrees to pay all of his debts, explaining that the meth he'd taken from Jesse sold better on the streets than any other product he's had. Walt then tells Tuco that he'll pay Walt and Jesse "up front" for future purposes and demands that Tuco now buy two pounds of his meth instead of one, which Tuco agrees to without hesitation ("Crazy Handful of Nothin'").

Walt, Jesse, and Tuco at the junkyard ("A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal")

Walt and Jesse set up a meeting with Tuco in a auto junkyard. Jesse criticizes Walt for his poor choice of location to set up a meeting with a psychopathic drug dealer. Tuco and his associates, No-Doze and Gonzo arrive. Tuco also makes fun of the location choice, asking "what, is the mall closed or something?" Walt explains to Tuco that due to a "production problem," they will have to delay the delivery of the rest of the first batch. Tuco is annoyed, and as an apology Walt offers to extend his offer to four pounds. Tuco agrees but delivers a stern warning: "Talk is talk. But owing me money, that's bad."

Walt uses methylamine to deliver the amount of meth he promised in time. They meet again at the same auto junkyard and Walt delivers the first ever batch of blue meth. Tuco questions why the meth is blue, but Walt guarantees him it is as pure as their previous product. Tuco snorts some of the blue meth and approves of it, telling Walt to keep doing what he's doing and then pays Walt for the product. "We're gonna make a lot of money together," says Tuco. No-Doze then unthinkingly warns Walt and Jesse to remember who they are working for. High on the meth he just snorted, Tuco screams at his associate, claiming that he is disrespecting their new partners. Walt tries to calm down the situation by telling Tuco to relax, and Tuco responds by viciously beating No-Doze's face to a pulp, even showing Walt and Jesse his bloodied knuckles as he celebrates. Tuco laughs and tells a bewildered Walt he'll see him next week as Gonzo drags No-Doze's limp body to the car, and the drug dealers drive away ("A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal").

Season 2

Tuco, Walt, and Jesse before the body of No-Doze ("Seven Thirty-Seven")

Walt and Jesse are horrified after witnessing the scene. As they get in Jesse's car and are driving out of the junkyard, Tuco's car returns and blocks their path. Tuco gets out of the car and drags an unconscious No-Doze out to the floor, ordering Walt to perform CPR to bring him back. Walt tries to explain to Tuco that CPR won't help, they need an ambulance to save the man's life. No-Doze then dies in front of them, prompting Tuco to release his rage by furiously kicking the corpse several times. He then orders Gonzo to dispose of the body, to which Gonzo says they should give his buddy a proper burial, but Tuco coldly orders him to stash the body underneath a stack of old cars. Tuco turns his attention to Walt and Jesse, dismissing the duo saying that they are "done" before violently pushing Jesse to the ground for no apparent reason. Walt and Jesse drive off from the junkyard and begin to fear that Tuco will mark them both for death because they were witnesses of Tuco murdering No-Doze. Later that day, Gonzo returns to the junkyard to retrieve No-Doze's body and give him a proper burial against Tuco's orders. As he is removing the body from under a pile of cars, the pile collapses on Gonzo's arm and he bleeds to death. The body is later found and the scene is investigated by the DEA. They find Tuco's bloody prints on No-Doze's body and decide to raid Tuco's hideout.("Grilled") Tuco left his hideout before the raid during the night, where several members of his crew were arrested. He then goes to Jesse's place and manages to kidnap him. They drive to Walt's house and trick Walt into getting in the car with Jesse, only for Tuco to point a gun at them and force them to drive to an unknown location ("Seven Thirty-Seven").

Tio, Tuco, Walt and Jesse at the cabin ("Grilled")

By the morning, they arrive at a cabin in the desert where Tuco lives with his disabled uncle, up to this point only referred to as Tio, who appears to have suffered from a stroke and is only able to communicate using a bell attached to his wheelchair. As he is cooking breakfast for them, Tuco orders both Walt and Jesse to give him their wallets so he can take a look at their documents, learning that "Heisenberg's" real name is Walter White. Tuco then asks Walt if he can trust him, to which Walt responds with a solid "yes" while looking Tuco in the eyes, gaining his trust. Unaware of Gonzo's death, Tuco believes that Gonzo was the one who turned him in to the DEA and brought the raid on his hideout; he is extremely upset about it and feels betrayed, stating that he treated Gonzo like a brother. Walt and Jesse are aware that Gonzo was found dead so they play along so he won't think that they were the ones who ratted Tuco out. Tuco mentions his future plans, saying that he has a lot of connections south of the border and his cousins are coming to give them a lift to Mexico where Walt and Jesse will be taken to a superlab so they could "cook 24/7." He also states that, thanks to his connections, the DEA would not interfere with his business. Walt and Jesse then proceed with something they were planning before being kidnapped: poisoning Tuco with ricin disguised as a small bag of meth. Jesse easily convinces Tuco to snort it but the plan ultimately fails when Jesse explains that the "meth" contains chili powder. "I hate chili powder," Tuco complains as he throws the bag away.

Tuco prepares burritos for Walt, Jesse, and his uncle. While Tuco is distracted in the kitchen, Walt attempts to sneak the ricin into Tuco's burrito in front of Tio, who Walt and Jesse believe to be in no condition to ruin their plan. It turns out that Tio is still very aware of his surroundings and when Tuco comes back with the other burritos Tio is able to convince Tuco not to eat the poisoned one. Believing Tio wanted the biggest burrito, he switches plate with his uncle, Tio then proceeds to push the poisoned burrito to the floor while staring angrily at Walt, but Tuco is unable to decipher the message. Later on, as Tuco is shooting animals with an assault rifle while he waits for his cousins to arrive, Tio keeps ringing his bell to call his nephew's attention. Tuco finally asks his uncle what he wants, and Tio is able to tell Tuco that he doesn't like Walt or Jesse. Walt tries to tell Tuco that Tio is not in his right mind, but Tuco is very aware that his uncle is still sharp. Tio is able to tell Tuco that Walt and Jesse are "punking" him, Tuco furiously approaches Jesse, grabs him by the shirt and drags him out of the cabin as Walt runs after them trying to calm him down. Tuco proceeds to beat Jesse while using his assault rifle to keep Walt away.

Tuco lies dead after being shot in the head ("Grilled")

After beating Jesse for some time, Tuco points his gun to Jesse's head and demands to know what Walt and Jesse were up to, Walt reveals that they tried to poison him because he is "an insane, degenerate piece of filth." As Tuco is distracted by Walt's comment, Jesse is able to grab a rock and strike Tuco in the head, making him drop his rifle. Walt manages to grab the rifle, but is unable to get a clear shot as Tuco and Jesse fight. Tuco gains the upper hand by choking Jesse while repeatedly slamming him against the ground but Jesse is able to grab a pistol from Tuco's belt and shoots him in the stomach. With Tuco out of action Walt and Jesse are able to make their escape. Some seconds later Tuco manages to stand up despite his wounds and approaches Jesse's car, noticing that they left behind the rifle. Another car approaches the cabin. Hank Schrader, searching for Jesse by tracking his car, approaches Tuco believing him to be Jesse. After a brief moment of silence, Hank realizes that he is actually confronting Tuco and draws his gun. Tuco grabs the assault rifle and shoots at Hank (who takes cover behind his car). Both men run out of ammo and have to stop to reload but Hank ultimately shoots Tuco in the head ("Grilled").

Season 3

It is revealed that Tuco was not simply an ordinary drug dealer from Albuquerque, but he was a representative to the Juárez Cartel north of the U.S. border. Tio was, in fact, Don Hector Salamanca, a highly influential member and one of the most feared capos before his health deteriorated. Tuco's cousins, hitmen for the cartel, are summoned to Albuquerque to kill Walt in retribution for Tuco's death.

Season 5

As Hank is going through old evidence documents, he briefly comes across a picture of Tuco's corpse ("Blood Money").

Personality

"This Salamanca character? Maniac."
Jimmy McGill to Mike Ehrmantraut[src]

Tuco after beating No-Doze to death.

Tuco is known for his erratic personality and propensity for extreme violence, making him one of the most dangerous drug dealers in New Mexico. He is shown to be capable of hurting and killing people close to him without showing any remorse if they do something he finds disrespectful and even shows sadistic pleasure in harming others to a degree. He is overall almost completely insane, violent and a complete psychopath, making him one of the most dangerous members of his family, surpassing even his uncle and cousins to an extent.

Despite his cruelty, Tuco shows signs of being extremely loyal to the people he trusts and caring towards those he loves; namely his elderly grandmother and later his disabled uncle and will brutally harm anyone who shows disrespect towards his loved ones or causes them harm in any form. He is also shown to be brave to an extent as seen by him continuing to brutally beat Mike Ehrmantraut despite cops being on the scene and engaging DEA Agent Hank Schrader in an intense gunfight rather than surrendering.

Murders committed by Tuco

  • Dog Paulson: Shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun in 1998.
  • Unnamed Mexican national: Knifed in an altercation in prison in 2003.
  • No-Doze: Beaten to death for "disrespecting" their new partners, Walter and Jesse.
  • 1 Cow: Killed with an M4 while Tuco was on a meth-induced high at Hector’s house.

Quotes

Better Call Saul

"You called her "biznatch"?"
―Tuco, in anger at Cal and Lars's insulting of his grandmother.[src]

"Are you punking my Abuelita?"
―Tuco asking Jimmy.[src]

"Wow. You got a mouth on you."
―Tuco to Jimmy after hearing his explanation.[src]

Breaking Bad

"This kicks like a mule with its balls wrapped in duct tape!"
―Tuco after experiencing Walt's methamphetamine.[src]

"Tight! Tight tight, yeah!"
―Tuco after using Blue Sky for the first time.[src]

"Okay, so you're not saying that they're stupid? So I don't understand. Are you saying that I'm stupid? Is that it? Is that what you're doing?"
―Tuco talking to No-Doze.[src]

"Heisenberg says relax. I'm relaxed."
―Tuco before beating No-Doze to death.[src]

"Damn, man! Look at that, look!"
―Tuco after beating No-Doze to death.[src]

"Do something! You're smart, right? Do that-- Do that thing!"
―Tuco telling Walt and Jesse to do something about No-Doze's body[src]

Jesse: "Alright, fine, facts in. Fact A: my phone rang like eight times last night. Dead air, hang-ups everytime. Second fact? Like three in the morning, I saw that black Caddy of his cruising my neighborhood. No headlights."
Walter: "No, if he wanted to kill us, he would have done it at the junkyard."
Jesse: "What is that? Conjecture? Are you basing that on that he's got a normal, healthy brain or something? Did you not see him beat a dude to death for like nothing? And that way, that way he just kept staring at us. Saying, "You're done." You're done?! You wanna know what that means? I will tell you what that means! That means exactly how it sounds, yo! Alright, we are witnesses, we are loose ends! Right now, Tuco's thinking, "Yeah, hey, they cook good meth, but can I trust them?" What happens when he decides "no"?"
―Jesse and Walt discuss Tuco's motives for killing them.[src]

Tuco: "TELL ME WHAT YOU DID!"
Walter: "We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die."
―Walter's words to Tuco just before Jesse bashes Tuco in the face with a rock.[src]

Jesse: "We got to be Tuco. Alright, cut out the middle man, run our own game."
Walter: "So you're going to what? Snort meth off a bowie knife? You're gonna beat your homies to death when they "dis" you?"
―Walter referencing Tuco's psychotic nature.[src]

Appearances

Breaking Bad

Episodes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5A
Season 5B

Better Call Saul

Episodes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6

Trivia

  • In a 2013 online article by Bustle, Tuco was ranked as being the second most evil character on Breaking Bad, considered to be surpassed only by Jack Welker.
  • Tuco was the very first person to use Blue Sky.
  • Tuco was originally supposed to be the main antagonist of Season 2, but due to Raymond Cruz having difficulties portraying the character, he was killed off earlier than intended.
  • Tuco, as a distributor of the Juarez Cartel, was loyal to Don Eladio Vuente. Coincidentally, Raymond Cruz once played a character going by virtually the same name, 'Eladio Buente', as part of the X-Files episode 'El Mundo Gira' in 1997.
  • Tuco's name may be a reference to Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, or the Ugly, in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Similarly to Salamanca, Ramirez is a Mexican criminal based in New Mexico.
  • Tuco drives a 1970 Pontiac LeMans.
  • In "Grilled", Hank says that Tuco is suspected of knifing a Mexican national back in 2003. This event ends up taking place in the Better Call Saul episode "Off Brand", which happens in 2003. In it, Arturo informs Hector that Tuco knifed a man while in prison.
  • Tuco's death is the first of many firearm-related deaths featured onscreen during the entire Breaking Bad universe's production run.
  • In "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal", which takes place in 2008, Skinny Pete says that Tuco was released an year earlier, meaning he was out of prison in 2007 or late 2006 at best. In "Bad Choice Road", Lalo tells Hector that Tuco will be out of prison in 11 months, meaning that the episode takes place in either 2006 or late 2005. This would suggest that Tuco spent a little more time in prison than previously mentioned.
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