José Arcadio Buendía believes Macondo to be surrounded by water, and from that island, he invents the world according to his perceptions. Soon after its foundation, Macondo becomes a town frequented by unusual and extraordinary events that involve the generations of the Buendía family, who are unable or unwilling to escape their periodic (mostly self-inflicted) misfortunes. For years the town is solitary and unconnected to the outside world, with the exception of the annual visit of a band of gypsies, who show the townspeople scientific discoveries such as magnets, telescopes, and ice. The leader of the gypsies, a man named Melquíades, maintains a close friendship with José Arcadio, who becomes increasingly withdrawn, obsessed with investigating the mysteries of the universe presented to him by the gypsies. Ultimately he is driven insane, speaking only in Latin, and is tied to a chestnut tree by his family for many years until his death.
Eventually Macondo becomes exposed to the outside world and the government of newly independent Colombia. A rigged election between the Conservative and Liberal parties is held in town, inspiring Aureliano Buendía to join a civil war against the Conservative government. He becomes an iconic revolutionary leader, fighting for many years and surviving multiple attempts on his life, but ultimately tires of war and signs a peace treaty with the Conservatives. Disillusioned, he returns to Macondo and spends the rest of his life making tiny gold fish in his workshop.
Úrsula Iguarán is the matriarch of the Buendía family and is wife and cousin to José Arcadio Buendía. She lives to be well over 100 years old and she oversees the Buendía household through six of the seven generations documented in the novel. She has a business of making candy animals and pastries which she continues until the arrival of Fernanda. She exhibits a very strong character and often succeeds where the men of her family fail, for example finding a route to the outside world from Macondo. She deeply fears her family resuming their incestuous practices as her inbred relatives tended to have animalistic features. From a strong and active matriarch, Úrsula is reduced to a plaything for Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano in her last years and shrinks to the size of a newborn baby when she finally dies.
José Arcadio Buendía's firstborn son, José Arcadio seems to have inherited his father's headstrong, impulsive mannerisms. He eventually leaves the family to chase a Gypsy girl and unexpectedly returns many years later as an enormous man covered in tattoos, claiming that he has sailed the seas of the world. He marries his adopted sister Rebeca, causing his banishment from the mansion, and he dies from a mysterious gunshot wound, days after saving his brother from execution.
José Arcadio Buendía's second son and the first person to be born in Macondo. He was thought to have premonitions because everything he said came true. He represents not only a warrior figure but also an artist due to his ability to write poetry and create finely crafted golden fish. During the wars he fathered 17 sons by unknown women, all named Aureliano. Four of them later begin to live in Macondo, and in the span of several weeks all of them but one (including those who chose not to remain in Macondo) are murdered by unknown assassins, before any of them had reached thirty-five years of age.
The third child of José Arcadio Buendía, Amaranta grows up as a companion of her adopted sister Rebeca. However, her feelings toward Rebeca turn sour over Pietro Crespi, whom both sisters intensely desire in their teenage years. Amaranta does everything she can to prevent Rebeca and Pietro marrying, even attempting to murder Rebeca. Amaranta dies a lonely and virginal spinster, but comfortable in her existence after having finally accepted what she had become.
During his 32 civil war campaigns, Colonel Aureliano Buendía has 17 sons by 17 different women, each named after their father. Four of these Aurelianos (A. Triste, A. Serrador, A. Arcaya and A. Centeno) stay in Macondo and become a permanent part of the family. Eventually, as revenge against the Colonel, all are assassinated by unknown assailants, who identified them by the mysteriously permanent Ash Wednesday cross on their foreheads. The only survivor of the massacre is A. Amador, who escapes into the jungle only to be assassinated at the doorstep of his father's house many years later.
Remedios the BeautyRemedios the Beauty is Arcadio and Santa Sofía's first child. It is said she is the most beautiful woman ever seen in Macondo, and unintentionally causes the deaths of several men who love or lust over her. She appears to most of the town as naively innocent, and some come to think that she is mentally delayed. However, Colonel Aureliano Buendía believes she has inherited great lucidity: \"It is as if she's come back from twenty years of war,\" he said. She rejects clothing and beauty which has the opposite effect and makes her more beautiful. Too beautiful and, arguably, too wise for the world, Remedios ascends to heaven one afternoon, while folding Fernanda's white sheet.
Melquíades is one of a band of gypsies who visit Macondo every year in March, displaying amazing items from around the world. Melquíades sells José Arcadio Buendía several new inventions including a pair of magnets and an alchemist's lab. Later, the gypsies report that Melquíades died in Singapore, but he, nonetheless, returns to live with the Buendía family, stating he could not bear the solitude of death. He stays with the Buendías and begins to write the mysterious parchments, which are eventually translated by Aureliano Babilonia, and prophesy the House of Buendía's end. Melquíades dies a second time from drowning in the river near Macondo and, following a grand ceremony organized by the Buendías, is the first individual buried in Macondo. His name echoes Melchizedek in the Old Testament, whose source of authority as a high priest was mysterious.
Pilar is a local woman who arrived to Macondo to escape the man who raped her as a teenager. She sleeps with the brothers Aureliano and José Arcadio. She becomes the mother of their sons, Aureliano José and Arcadio respectively. Pilar reads the future with cards, and every so often makes an accurate, though vague, prediction. She has close ties with the Buendías throughout the whole novel, helping them with her card predictions. She dies some time after she turns 145 years old (she had eventually stopped counting), surviving until the last days of Macondo.
Pietro is a very handsome and polite Italian musician who runs a music school. He installs the pianola in the Buendía house. He becomes engaged to Rebeca, but Amaranta, who also loves him, manages to delay the wedding for years. When José Arcadio and Rebeca agree to be married, Pietro begins to woo Amaranta, who is so embittered that she cruelly rejects him. Despondent over the loss of both sisters, he kills himself.
Petra is a dark-skinned mulatto woman with gold-brown eyes similar to those of a panther. She is Aureliano Segundo's mistress and the love of his life. She arrives in Macondo as a teenager with her first husband. After her husband dies, she begins a relationship with José Arcadio Segundo. When she meets Aureliano Segundo, she begins a relationship with him as well, not knowing they are two different men. After José Arcadio decides to leave her, Aureliano Segundo gets her forgiveness and remains by her side. He continues to see her, even after his marriage. He eventually lives with her, which greatly embitters his wife, Fernanda del Carpio. When Aureliano and Petra make love, their animals reproduce at an amazing rate, but their livestock is wiped out during the four years of rain. Petra makes money by keeping the lottery alive and provides food baskets for Fernanda and her family after the death of Aureliano Segundo.
Mauricio is a brutally honest, generous and handsome mechanic for the banana company. He is said to be a descendant of the gypsies who visit Macondo in the early days. He has the unusual characteristic of being constantly swarmed by yellow butterflies, which follow even his lover for a time. Mauricio begins a romantic affair with Meme until Fernanda discovers them and tries to end it. When Mauricio continues to sneak into the house to see her, Fernanda has him shot, claiming he is a chicken thief. Paralyzed and bedridden, he spends the rest of his long life in solitude.
Gastón is Amaranta Úrsula's wealthy, Belgian husband. She marries him in Europe and returns to Macondo leading him on a silk leash. Gastón is about fifteen years older than his wife. He is an aviator and an adventurer. When he moves with Amaranta Ursula to Macondo he thinks it is only a matter of time before she realizes that her European ways are out of place, causing her to want to move back to Europe. However, when he realizes his wife intends to stay in Macondo, he arranges for his airplane to be shipped over so he can start an airmail service. The plane is shipped to Africa by mistake. When he travels there to claim it, Amaranta writes him of her love for Aureliano Babilonia Buendía. Gastón takes the news in stride, only asking that they ship him his velocipede.
Perhaps the most dominant theme in the book is that of solitude. Macondo was founded in the remote jungles of the Colombian rainforest. The solitude of the town is representative of the colonial period in Latin American history, where outposts and colonies were, for all intents and purposes, not interconnected. Isolated from the rest of the world, the Buendías grow to be increasingly solitary and selfish. With every member of the family living only for him or her self, the Buendías become representative of the aristocratic, land-owning elite who came to dominate Latin America in keeping with the sense