The Buendia household enters a rigorous period of mourning for Colonel Aureliano Buendia. The period of mourning coincides with Meme's last school vacations; in doing with custom Aureliano Segundo returns to his house. The product of this return is that Fernanda gives birth to a third child, a girl named Amaranta Ursula.
The first Amaranta, meanwhile, dies peacefully the night of February 5. She had been visited by a vision of death several years before in the guise of a long-haired woman who instructed her to begin weaving her own funeral shroud. When the shroud was finished, the vision predicted, Amaranta would die. Amaranta's last several years were spent in the creation of a lovely shroud; she even figured out the exact date of her own death. Calm and composed on that date, looking healthy in spite of her proclamation, she causes a stir in the town by announcing that she will bring letters to the dead. A great box of letters is collected in the hall, and true to her word, Amaranta dies that night.
Meme, who has been away at school for so long, blooms into a pretty, fun-loving adolescent. She enjoys parties, movies, and entertaining, and she practices the clavichord with great discipline only because she realizes that it will appease her mother. She develops a close relationship with her father, based on their common personalities and shared distaste for Fernanda del Carpio. Meme even wishes that she were the daughter of Petra Cotes rather than Fernanda. Then she falls in love with what Fernanda considers an "unacceptable" choiceMauricio Babilonia, a mechanic for the banana plantation.
Despite his class status and rough hands, Mauricio is dignified, solemn, and handsome, always attended by a flock of yellow butterflies. Fernanda discovers Meme kissing him in the movies one night and proceeds to lock her in the house. When she discovers that Mauricio is slipping into the house every night to make love to Meme, she posts a guard in the backyard to shoot "a chicken thief." The guard shoots Mauricio in the back, confining him to bed for the rest of his life. Meme is struck mute by the trauma and Fernanda takes her to a convent to spend the rest of her life. Months later, a cheerful nun comes to the house with baby Aureliano, Meme's illegitimate son with Mauricio Babilonia. Disgusted, but unable to bring herself to kill the child, Fernanda keeps his origins hidden. She confines the child to the house and treats him like a second-class citizen.
While the Buendias are haunted by personal tragedy, Macondo is also gearing up for the most important moment in the town's history. Jose Arcadio Segundo, Aureliano's solitary twin, has given up his job as the banana plantation's foreman in order to organize the workers. He draws public attention to the brutal working conditions of the plantation and is pointed out as the "agent of an international conspiracy against public order." The workers strike, and Macondo is placed under martial law. While the army, which blatantly favors the plantation owners, sets about terrorizing the town, the workers battle them using guerrilla tactics. At last, pretending to seek a resolution, the government invites some 3000 workers and their families to gather at the train station for a meeting to resolve the matter. The meeting, which starts out festively, ends up being a massacre. No sooner have the workers gathered than the army surrounds them and kills them with machine-gun fire. Jose Arcadio Segundo is taken for dead and wakes up on a train filled with corpses, headed for the ocean. Horrified, he manages to jump off the train and return to Macondo. But he walks back into another world, because the town has absolutely no memory of the massacre and has accepted the government-sponsored lie that no massacre took place. The only thing that leads Jose Arcadio Segundo to believe that he has not lost his mind is the rain: the day after the massacre, a torrential rain falls on Macondo and does not stop for almost five years.
The government continues to root out suspected unionists and shoot them in secret, all the while denying that any killing has ever taken place. The courts proclaim that the workers cannot unionize; indeed, they even claim that the banana plantation has no workers. Jose Arcadio Buendia locks himself up in Melquiades' old room, where Santa Sofia de la Piedad looks after him. One night, the soldiers invade the room, but they do not see him sitting there peacefully, waiting to be killed. Instead, they see only cobwebs and decay. Confused and terrified by the tragedies he has suffered, Jose Arcadio Segundo remains in Melquiades' room for good, where he discovers the gypsy's old texts. He loses contact with the outside world for years, isolating himself to study the texts and to keep his memory of the massacre intact.
This section is the climax of the book. The declines of the Buendias and Macondo continue to mirror each other in this section, as tragedies on the micro and macro level combine to rush both family and town towards Marquez's apocalyptic ending. On a comparative note, both tragedies are unnecessarily cruel, and both are enacted by a brutal, meddlesome authority. By linking the tragedies and having them run side by side, Marquez implies that brutalities inside the home are just as devastating to the health of the country as ones that occur on a mass level.
The fates of Meme and Jose Arcadio Segundo are also linked to their ancestors, albeit with a horrific twist. Fernanda abandons Meme at a convent in her decrepit hometown. This certainly would have been her own fate if Aureliano Segundo had not swept down to rescue her and bring her back to Macondo, making her "queen" of the Buendia clan if not, as she had expected, the world. In effect, Fernanda sacrifices Meme to ensure that she will not meet the same fate. This circle, this repetition of fateone of many that the Buendias have already gone throughis the most tragic of all, for it is the first time that a family member is so morally depraved as to sacrifice the future for the present.
Jose Arcadio Segundo, meanwhile, compares to Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Even Ursula notes that he is "just like Aurelianoit's as if the world were repeating itself." Unlike Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Jose Arcadio Segundo has a concrete cause to fight for and a harrowing memory to keep his compassion alive after his war is finished. These changes signal a maturation in the role of the Latin American progressive hero, but they also signal a new level of corruption, cruelty, and inhumanity on behalf of the governments these heroes are fighting against. It is important that Colonel Aureliano Buendia died in the previous section, before the newand just as helplesshero of the order could rise. The two men have similarities, but the times they live in are very different.
The massacre of the workers is the novel's emotional and spiritual center. It is the book's strongest statement against political violence and its strongest plea for peace. It is also Marquez's narrative triumphdespite the heavy political leanings of the massacre, the narrator remains dispassionate and the description is not polemical. This must have been all the more difficult for Marquez because the event is based on his own life. As a child living near a banana plantationnamed Macondo--he witnessed the massacre of striking banana workers. The dead bodies were then systematically removed from the town and thrown into the ocean. When he was in high school, Marquez realized with shock that the incident had been erased from his history textbooks. In effect, then, Marquez is playing the role of Jose Arcadio Segundohe is the living repository of an event that many have forgotten or would like to forget.