José Arcadio Buendía
José Arcadio Buendía is the patriarch of the Buendía family and the founder of Macondo. Buendía leaves Riohacha, Colombia with his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, after murdering Prudencio Aguilar in a duel. One-night camping at the side of a river, Buendía dreams of a city of mirrors named Macondo and decides to establish the town in this location. José Arcadio Buendía is an introspective and inquisitive man of massive strength and energy who spends more time on his scientific pursuits than with his family. He flirts with alchemy and astronomy and becomes increasingly withdrawn from his family and community.
Úrsula Iguarán is one of the two matriarchs of the Buendía family and is wife 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 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.
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's 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.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía
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.
Remedios was the youngest daughter of the town's Conservative administrator, Don Apolinar Moscote. Her most striking physical features are her beautiful skin and her emerald-green eyes. The future Colonel Aureliano falls in love with her, despite her extreme youth. She dies shortly after the marriage from a blood poisoning illness during her pregnancy. Until soon before the Colonel's death, her dolls are displayed in his bedroom.
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 dies a lonely and virginal spinster, but comfortable in her existence after having finally accepted what she had become.
Rebeca is the orphaned daughter of Ursula Iguaran's second cousins. At first she is extremely timid, refuses to speak, and has the habits of eating earth and whitewash from the walls of the house, a condition known as pica. She arrives carrying a canvas bag containing her parents' bones and seems not to understand or speak Spanish. However, she responds to questions asked by Visitacion and Cataure in the Guajiro or Wayuu language. She falls in love with and marries her adoptive brother José Arcadio after his return from traveling the world. After his mysterious and untimely death, she lives in seclusion for the rest of her life.
Arcadio is José Arcadio's illegitimate son by Pilar Ternera. He is a schoolteacher who assumes leadership of Macondo after Colonel Aureliano Buendía leaves. He becomes a tyrannical dictator and uses his schoolchildren as his personal army and Macondo soon becomes subject to his whims. When the Liberal forces in Macondo fall, Arcadio is shot by a Conservative firing squad.
Aureliano José is the illegitimate son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Pilar Ternera. He joins his father in several wars before deserting to return to Macondo. He deserted because he is obsessed with his aunt, Amaranta, who raised him since his birth. He is eventually shot to death by a Conservative captain midway through the wars.
Santa Sofía de la Piedad
Santa Sofía is a beautiful virgin girl and the daughter of a shopkeeper. She is hired by Pilar Ternera to have sex with her son Arcadio, her eventual husband. She is taken in along with her children by the Buendías after Arcadio's execution. After Úrsula's death she leaves unexpectedly, not knowing her destination.
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 the government, which 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 Beauty
Remedios 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 retarded. 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. Too beautiful and, arguably, too wise for the world, Remedios ascends into the sky one afternoon in the 4pm sun, while folding Fernanda's white sheet.
José Arcadio Segundo
José Arcadio Segundo is the twin brother of Aureliano Segundo, the children of Arcadio and Santa Sofía. Úrsula believes that the two were switched in their childhood, as José Arcadio begins to show the characteristics of the family's Aurelianos, growing up to be pensive and quiet. He plays a major role in the banana worker strike, and is the only survivor when the company massacres the striking workers. Afterward, he spends the rest of his days studying the parchments of Melquiades, and tutoring the young Aureliano. He dies at the exact instant that his twin does.
Of the two brothers, Aureliano Segundo is the more boisterous and impulsive, much like the José Arcadios of the family. He takes his first girlfriend Petra Cotes as his mistress during his marriage to the beautiful and bitter Fernanda del Carpio. When living with Petra, his livestock propagate wildly, and he indulges in unrestrained revelry. After the long rains, his fortune dries up, and the Buendías are left almost penniless. He turns to search for a buried treasure, which nearly drives him to insanity. He dies of throat cancer at the same moment as his twin. During the confusion at the funeral, the bodies are switched, and each is buried in the other's grave (highlighting Ursula's earlier comment that they had been switched at birth).
Fernanda del Carpio
Fernanda del Carpio is the only major character (except for Rebeca and the First generation) not from Macondo. She comes from a ruined, aristocratic family that kept her isolated from the world. She was chosen as the most beautiful of 5000 girls. Fernanda is brought to Macondo to compete with Remedios for the title of Queen of the carnival after her father promises her she will be the Queen of Madagascar. After the fiasco, she marries Aureliano Segundo and soon takes the leadership of the family away from the now-frail Úrsula. She manages the Buendía affairs with an iron fist. She has three children by Aureliano Segundo: José Arcadio, Renata Remedios, a.k.a. Meme, and Amaranta Úrsula. She remains in the house after he dies, taking care of the household until her death.
Fernanda is never accepted by anyone in the Buendía household who regard her as an outsider, although none of the Buendías rebel against her inflexible conservatism. Her mental and emotional instability is revealed through her paranoia, her correspondence with the "invisible doctors", and her irrational behavior towards Aureliano, whom she tries to isolate from the whole world.
Renata Remedios (a.k.a. Meme)
Renata Remedios, or Meme is the second child and first daughter of Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo. While she doesn't inherit Fernanda's beauty, she does have Aureliano Segundo's love of life and natural charisma. After her mother declares that she is to do nothing but play the clavichord, she is sent to school where she receives her performance degree as well as academic recognition. While she pursues the clavichord with 'an inflexible discipline', to placate Fernanda, she also enjoys partying and exhibits the same tendency towards excess as her father.
Meme meets and falls in love with Mauricio Babilonia, but when Fernanda discovers their affair, she arranges for Mauricio to be shot, claiming that he was a chicken thief. She then takes Meme to a convent. Meme remains mute for the rest of her life, partially because of the trauma, but also as a sign of rebellion. Several months later she gives birth to a son, Aureliano, at the convent. He is sent to live with the Buendías. Aureliano arrives in a basket and Fernanda is tempted to kill the child in order to avoid shame, but instead claims he is an orphan in order to cover up her daughter's promiscuity and is forced to "tolerate him against her will for the rest of her life because at the moment of truth she lacked the courage to go through with her inner determination to drown him...". Meme dies of old age in a hospital in Kraków.
José Arcadio (II)
José Arcadio II, named after his ancestors in the Buendía tradition, follows the trend of previous Arcadios. He is raised by Úrsula, who intends for him to become Pope. He returns from Rome without having become a priest. He spends his days pining for Amaranta, the object of his obsession. Eventually, he discovers the treasure Úrsula had buried under her bed, which he wastes on lavish parties and escapades with adolescent boys. Later, he begins a tentative friendship with Aureliano Babilonia, his nephew. José Arcadio plans to set Aureliano up in a business and return to Rome, but is murdered in his bath by four of the adolescent boys who ransack his house and steal his gold.
Amaranta Úrsula is the third child of Fernanda and Aureliano. She displays the same characteristics as her namesake who dies when she is only a child. She never knows that the child sent to the Buendía home is her nephew, the illegitimate son of Meme. He becomes her best friend in childhood. She returns home from Europe with an elder husband, Gastón, who leaves her when she informs him of her passionate affair with her nephew, Aureliano. She dies of hemorragia, after she has given birth to the last of the Buendía line.
Aureliano Babilonia (Aureliano II)
Aureliano Babilonia, or Aureliano II, is the illegitimate child of Meme. He is hidden from everyone by his grandmother, Fernanda. He is strikingly similar to his namesake, the Colonel, and has the same character patterns as well. He is taciturn, silent, and emotionally charged. He barely knows Úrsula, who dies during his childhood. He is a friend of José Arcadio Segundo, who explains to him the true story of the banana worker massacre.
While other members of the family leave and return, Aureliano stays in the Buendía home. He only ventures into the empty town after the death of Fernanda. He works to decipher the parchments of Melquíades but stops to have an affair with his childhood partner and the love of his life, Amaranta Úrsula, not knowing that she is his aunt. When both she and her child die, he is able to decipher the parchments. "...Melquíades' final keys were revealed to him and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of man's time and space: 'The first in line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by ants'." It is assumed he dies in the great wind that destroys Macondo the moment he finishes reading Melquíades' parchments.
Aureliano III is the child of Aureliano and his aunt, Amaranta Úrsula. He is born with a pig's tail, as the eldest and long dead Úrsula had always feared would happen (the parents of the child had never heard of the omen). His mother dies after giving birth to him, and, due to his grief-stricken father's negligence, he is devoured by ants.
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. Melquíades then 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.
Pilar is a local woman who sleeps with the brothers Aureliano and José Arcadio. She becomes the mother of their sons, Aureliano José and Arcadio. Pilar reads the future with cards, and every so often makes an accurate, though vague, prediction. She has close ties with the Buendias 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 very last days of Macondo.
The word "Ternera" in Spanish signifies veal or calf, which is fitting considering the way she is treated by Aureliano, Jose Arcadio, and Arcadio. Also, it could be a play on the word "Ternura", which in Spanish means "Tenderness". Pilar is always presented as a very loving figure, and the author often uses names in a similar fashion.
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 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.
Mr. Herbert and Mr. Brown
Mr. Herbert is a gringo who showed up at the Buendía house for lunch one day. After tasting the local bananas for the first time, he arranges for a banana company to set up a plantation in Macondo. The plantation is run by the dictatorial Mr. Brown. When José Arcadio Segundo helps arrange a workers' strike on the plantation, the company traps the more than three thousand strikers and machine guns them down in the town square. The banana company and the government completely cover up the event. José Arcadio is the only one who remembers the slaughter. The company arranges for the army to kill off any resistance, then leaves Macondo for good. That event is likely based on the Banana massacre, that took place in Ciénaga, Magdalena in 1928.
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.
Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez
He is the friend and comrade-in-arms of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. He fruitlessly woos Amaranta.
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez is only a minor character in the novel but he has the distinction of bearing the same name as the author. He is the great-great-grandson of Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. He and Aureliano Babilonia are close friends because they know the history of the town, which no one else believes. He leaves for Paris after winning a contest and decides to stay there, selling old newspapers and empty bottles. He is one of the few who is able to leave Macondo before the town is wiped out entirely.