Aureliano Triste brings in electrical power on his second visit on the train. Bruno Crespi opens a movie theater and the people riot in response to the films until the mayor explains that they are just illusions. The French matrons introduce phonographs and live musicians suffer at first. Everyone is upset when the first telephone is installed.
The train serves as not just an advancement of technology in its own right, but also as a method of transportation for other new technologies, bringing electricity first. While the people of Macondo are accepting of some types of magic, the illusions of a movie projected on a screen are too disturbing at first. Communication has progressed from troubadours to mail to telegraphs and now to telephones. Each new invention is met with resistance and concern over how this will change the town by allowing in outside influences.
A man named Mr. Herbert arrives to town with his hot air balloon, but the people of Macondo are not impressed, having already ridden the flying carpet of the gypsies years before. He eats a bunch of bananas and examines them closely. A group of scientists arrive to inspect the area. Mr. Jack Brown shows up, accompanied by a team of lawyers, and closely followed by a horde of gringos who live in a town they set up across the railroad tracks. The demographics of the merchants of Macondo shift to become mostly foreigners, and gambling halls and shooting galleries are established. Eight months after the arrival of Mr. Herbert, the town is almost unrecognizable.
A white man, presumably the first in town, thinks he’ll make money on the introduction of his hot air balloon, a technology surely unknown to the people of Macondo. But they are unimpressed, unable to distinguish between the magic of the prior inventions they were exposed to and the technological innovation before them. Mr. Herbert’s interest in the banana, a fruit unknown to him, ushers in a slew of other white men, looking to capitalize on the products of the region, causing one of the sharpest shifts in the demographics of the town, an echo of Úrsula inviting the new inhabitants through the swamp with her decades before.
Strangers of all sorts visit the Buendía home. All the residents of Macondo know is that the gringos plan to plant banana trees. Two more of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s fifteen remote sons return because, they say, everyone is coming to Macondo. Remedios the Beauty remains unchanged and serene. She sews herself a simple cassock to wear so that she might feel as naked as possible while technically covered and shaves her head, and she seems all the more beautiful for all of these rejections of conventional beauty. Úrsula fears that the sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendía will be attracted to Remedios the Beauty and they will produce a child with the tail of a pig. She keeps a close eye on all of them to be sure this doesn’t happen.
The Buendías attempt to properly welcome the new residents to Macondo, but the gringos mistake the Buendías’ home and hospitality for a restaurant, showing the difference in their customs and values. Macondo has apparently become popular enough that two more of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s seventeen sons return. Úrsula retains her initial fear of incest, certain that Remedios the Beauty will ultimately be the cause of a child being born with a pig’s tail, though she has remained mostly oblivious to the other larger threats of incest through past generations.
Remedios the Beauty has no idea of the calamity she causes in the men who see her. Úrsula insists she eat in the kitchen with Amaranta, keeping her out of sight of the visitors. One day, while she performs her bathing ritual, a stranger removes a roof tile and spies on her from above. She warns him that he will fall, but doesn’t mind his watching. He continues to watch, removing two more tiles so that he might let himself into the bathroom, but the drop is too far, and he falls to his death. The men who remove his body note that he does not bleed blood, but instead an amber oil that smells of Remedios the Beauty.
Úrsula, also skeptical of the way men become destructively attracted to Remedios the Beauty, tries to keep her out of eyesight of the new arrivals. She is said to sleep so deeply and to take such long and luxurious baths that it almost seems like a ritual. The substance that leaks from the fallen man’s corpse seems to be blood transformed into some sort of sacred oil by the sight of Remedios the Beauty’s sacred oil, indicating her divinity.
Remedios the Beauty and her friends go to look at the new plantings. The men working the fields begin weeping at the sight of her, and they pursue the group of young women until they take refuge in a nearby house. The four Aurelianos rescue them after one of the attackers claws at Remedios the Beauty. That night the attacker is kicked in the chest by a horse and dies. People come to believe that Remedios the Beauty bears powers of death, rather than the previously assumed powers of love. Úrsula attempts to teach Remedios the Beauty housekeeping duties, but she fails.
When the second man dies for love of Remedios the Beauty, the town begins to fear her beauty, rather than revere it. Úrsula, ever practical, wants to give Remedios the Beauty some skills that might serve her in the long-term, so sure is she that no man could be satisfied by only the beauty of a woman (a rule we’ve already seen disproven), but Remedios the Beauty is so simple that she can’t perform even the simplest tasks.
One afternoon in March, folding sheets in the yard with Fernanda, Remedios the Beauty becomes pale. She rises up into the sky with the flapping sheets around her, disappearing. The only thing that overwhelms the talk of this miracle is the extermination of the Aurelianos. Colonel Aureliano Buendía had foreseen the tragedy. When he saw Mr. Brown arrive to town in the first automobile, he could see that the nature of men had changed. When the banana company appears, the local dignitaries are replaced with foreign rulers. Policemen are supplanted by assassins bearing machetes.
Remedios the Beauty’s divinity is proven when she rises up into heaven never to be seen again, accompanied by Fernanda’s bed sheets. Ursula’s attempt to teach Remedios the Beauty useful skills was unnecessary, after all, but for a different reason than readers assumed. Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s sons are gunned down one by one, and Colonel Aureliano Buendía could see this coming using his foresight and observations of the growing hostility of the men and law enforcement in town.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía thinks again that it was a mistake to end the war. A relative of his friend Magnífico Visbal and his grandson accidentally bumps into a policemen on the street and the child is cut to pieces and the grandfather beheaded. Colonel Aureliano Buendía threatens to arm his sons to exterminate the fascist gringos. Over the course of the next week, his sons are hunted down, identified by the mark of ashes on their foreheads. Amaranta records all of their deaths until only the eldest, Aureliano Amador, remains alive.
Though Colonel Aureliano Buendía has taken a long break from thinking about matters of war, he begins to think again about all that was lost in their surrender when he loses his sons to the changing politics of Colombia. The permanent crosses that the sons bore on their heads marked them as the progeny of the once-enemy of the Conservative party, a blow that will be felt more deeply by the old man than his own death which he has already attempted in the past.
The death of his sons causes rage, not sadness, in Colonel Aureliano Buendía. He halts production of his fishes and wanders the house aimlessly. He finds Úrsula in the courtyard, kneeling at the feet of the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía, and asks what his father has to say. Úrsula tells Colonel Aureliano Buendía that his father is very sad because he thinks his son is going to die. Colonel Aureliano Buendía responds “that a person doesn’t die when he should but when he can.” He asks Úrsula where the gold from the broken statue has been hidden, but she tells him that only the man who it belongs to will be able to find it.
As when Remedios Moscote dies, Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s grief takes the form of anger, not sadness. Úrsula, still apparently in communication with her dead husband, tells Colonel Aureliano Buendía that his father predicts he will die soon, but Colonel Aureliano Buendía is unconcerned, which echoes the book’s strange timeline.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía goes to Colonel Gerineldo Márquez to ask for help in starting the total war. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez has kept in touch with the rebel officers, many of whom are dying of hunger, still waiting for the pensions they were promised. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez pities his old friend for thinking that he can still make a change, remarking that Colonel Aureliano Buendía is even older than he looks.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s senile attempt to start a war again proves how pathetic he is to his old, wiser friend Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. Colonel Márquez now sees the awful aftermath of the war, all of the veterans dying in poverty for pensions that will never be paid. Neither of them is fit to fight any longer, but only one of them recognizes the limitations of his age.