When Remedios Moscote gets her menstrual period, she and Aureliano Buendía are married by Father Nicanor Reyna in the parlor of the house. At the ceremony, Remedios Moscote proves calm and composed, while everyone else is quite nervous. She takes the first piece of wedding cake to José Arcadio Buendía, still tied to the chestnut tree. The only unhappy person at the wedding is Rebeca, who had been set to marry Pietro Crespi on the same day. But just before, Pietro Crespi receives a letter that his mother is about to die. He hurries to the capital, missing his mother on the road, who is perfectly well. The writer of the letter remains unknown, but Amaranta is suspected.
Remedios Moscote, despite her youth, proves to be the most reasonable and sensitive of all the people at the wedding. She shows respect to her captive father-in-law, despite his being left alone by the rest of his family. Amaranta seems to have kept to her promise to Rebeca to prevent her wedding to Pietro Crespi by forging a letter that calls Pietro Crespi away.
The priest, appalled that the people of Macondo are living without proper religion, decides to stay for another week to do God’s work, but the people tell him they are not in need of a priest, having gone without for this long. The priest decides to build a church. He begs for support and holds an open-air mass, promising proof of the power of God. He drinks a cup of chocolate and rises six inches above the ground, repeating the demonstration for several days. These demonstrations earn him enough money in a month that he can begin the construction of the church. José Arcadio Buendía is unimpressed, responding in his gibberish, which the priest recognizes as not gibberish, but Latin.
In the same way that the people rejected outside governance, they also are reluctant to admit organized religion into their utopic city. The priest is able to provide proof of God’s existence by levitating, an arbitrary demonstration of his power, but the display is enough to convince people to donate to his fundraiser for the church. Though José Arcadio Buendía remains unconvinced by the existence of God, he is proven not to be as crazy as his family had assumed when the priest recognizes that the language he has been speaking is Latin. Still he is not untied from the tree.
Father Nicanor Reyna tries to prove the existence of God to José Arcadio Buendía and José Arcadio Buendía tries to disprove God to the priest. The priest challenges José Arcadio Buendía to a game of checkers, but José Arcadio Buendía says there is no point in competing in a contest to which the two competitors have agreed upon the rules. The priest, believing José Arcadio Buendía to be quite lucid, asks why he is tied to the tree, and José Arcadio Buendía says it is because he is crazy. The priest returns to building the church and doesn’t visit José Arcadio Buendía again.
José Arcadio Buendía’s insistence that there is no point in playing a game where the rules are agreed upon echoes his feelings about organized religion and his wish for Macondo to exist without official governance. He prefers existing without rules imposed by someone else. José Arcadio Buendía has adopted someone else’s beliefs in some regard though: he believes his family when they’ve told him he’s crazy, and has become resigned to remaining outside in the courtyard, tied to the tree.
Rebeca’s hopes of marriage are revived once Pietro Crespi has returned, but Amaranta suggests that Rebeca wait until the church is built, a process that Rebeca believes might take ten years. Pietro Crespi, too, is disappointed by the delay. The two lovers are found by Úrsula, kissing in the dark, and Úrsula dedicates herself to supervising their future visits. After three months of agony, Pietro Crespi donates the money Father Nicanor needs to finish the church. Amaranta removes the mothballs protecting Rebeca’s dress, but Amparo Moscote says she can sew a new dress in a week. Amaranta resolves to poison Rebeca’s coffee.
Amaranta continues to prevent Rebeca’s marriage by suggesting conditions for the wedding that delay it indefinitely. Her promise to poison Rebeca’s coffee shows the extreme to which she is willing to go for both her love of Pietro Crespi and her jealousy of Rebeca. The young couple displays significant propriety in the chastity they display leading up to their wedding, but even their steadfast morals are challenged by their lengthened engagement.
Remedios Moscote wakes in the middle of the night, soon after, and dies, perhaps of a miscarriage of the twins inside of her. At this news, Amaranta thinks better of her plan to poison Rebeca, feeling responsible for Remedios Moscote’s death. Remedios Moscote had been a joyful presence in the house, caring for José Arcadio Buendía and accepting the son of her husband and Pilar Ternera, Aureliano José as her own. Remedios Moscote and Aureliano Buendía had made a very content life for themselves. Úrsula institutes a mourning period. She hangs the daguerreotype of Remedios Moscote on the wall with a lamp. Out of guilt, Amaranta adopts Aureliano José as her own. Pietro Crespi visits Rebeca, but she is distraught over another delay of the wedding, and begins eating dirt again.
The cause of Remedios’s death is uncertain, but every possibility points to it being a punishment: either for Amaranta (because she attempted to poison Rebeca but accidentally poisoned Remedios, or because she simply wished for something terrible to happen to prevent the wedding), or for Aureliano for having married a woman too young to bear the burden of being pregnant. Remedios had been a blessing to the family, the first marriage to a person outside of the incestuous family, but this opportunity has been squashed. Amaranta taking her nephew Aureliano José as her ward begins the pattern of confused aunt/nephew relations.
A huge man arrives to the Buendía house, covered in tattoos. He proceeds through the house, greeting everyone nonchalantly. Only Úrsula recognizes him as her son José Arcadio (I). When they ask where he has been, he responds only, “Out there.” He sleeps for three days and then goes to Catarino’s store to celebrate. He displays his genitals and the women vie for his attention. He offers to sleep with them all if they can pay him ten pesos each, an extraordinary price. He has been around the world sixty-five times making his living in this way. He is not embraced by the family because of his crudity, though Úrsula tries to reconnect with him.
The Arcadios of the family tend to travel away from home before returning with a new perspective, and José Arcadio initiates this pattern. He remains mostly focused on his sexual prowess, turning this feature into a moneymaking scheme. The number of times he has circled the globe is most certainly an exaggeration, but the family accepts this account as fact. The family reacts negatively to his crudity, though Úrsula remains committed to him, again echoing the prodigal son in the bible.
Rebeca, though, is attracted to José Arcadio (I)’s masculinity. He recognizes that Rebeca has become a woman since he last saw her. With the sexual tension between them, Rebeca begins to eat dirt again. One afternoon, while the rest of the family is sleeping, she goes to José Arcadio and they have sex. Three days later they are married, after José Arcadio breaks the news to Pietro Crespi that he will marry Rebeca, despite her being his sister. Father Nicanor reveals that José Arcadio and Rebeca are not in fact biological sister and brother, but Úrsula refuses to allow the newlyweds in the house. They rent a house and, on their wedding night, a scorpion bites Rebeca, but they make love all night anyway. Aureliano Buendía brings them some furniture and money.
Rebeca is attracted to José Arcadio despite her belief that they are biological sister and brother. Though not technically forbidden because she was adopted, this is still seen as distasteful by the Buendía family. Any extremity of emotion from Rebeca is signaled by her eating dirt again, and her once unassailable love for Pietro Crespi is challenged by her passion for José Arcadio, an initial instance of sexual desire taking precedence over affection. The scorpion that bites Rebeca on their wedding night is an omen that the wedding is doomed.
Pietro Crespi continues to visit the Buendía house, and he and Amaranta seem to be initiating a romance. Pietro Crespi asks Amaranta to marry him, and she agrees, but not until they know each other better. Úrsula is confused at this response, but Aureliano Buendía agrees it is not the time for a wedding. The death of Remedios Moscote has caused him to be angry and solitary instead of sad. Don Apolinar Moscote tells Aureliano that the Liberals want to go to war, because they are bad people who want to “hang priests, to institute civil marriage and divorce, to recognize the rights of illegitimate children as equal to those of legitimate ones, and to cut the country up into a federal system that would take power away from the supreme authority.” The Conservatives, he says, have been given their power by God and want to protect morality.
Amaranta’s standoffishness toward Pietro Crespi is one of the first indications of the way she refuses both herself and others the pleasure of companionship. The death of Aureliano’s wife prompting him to respond with anger initiates his pattern of solitude and violent uprising. Seeking an outlet for his anger, he listens to his father-in-law’s argument that the Conservatives are the political party that is in the right because of their divine providence. The rights that Don Apolinar Moscote says that the Liberals are fighting for are rights that would benefit the members of the Buendía family, allowing illegitimate children more agency and providing the opportunity for unhappily married people to separate.
Aureliano Buendía sympathizes with the Liberal point of view, but he can’t imagine fighting over ideals. Before an election, soldiers confiscate the weapons from every house when distributing the ballots and alcohol sales and gathering are prohibited. Everyone submits their ballots and Don Apolinar Moscote seals the box, but that night they break the seal and take out all but ten of the Liberal ballots, tilting the election in favor of the Conservatives. Aureliano warns that this will prompt the Liberals to go to war. The result of the election has no impact on the town, but the failure of the soldiers to return people’s weapons makes them angry.
Despite his allegiance to his father-in-law, Aureliano sees the logic of the Liberal point of view. His familial ties hold him to Conservatism only until he sees the corruption of Don Apolinar Moscote’s actions, at which point he transfers his allegiances. The corruption of the Conservative party remains secret, implying that other such corruption exists out of sight of the people of the village, but the influence of politics is still minor enough that the people don’t recognize the discrepancy between how people voted and who won.
Soon after, when Gerineldo Márquez and Magnífico Visbal ask Aureliano Buendía if he is Liberal or Conservative, he says that he is a Liberal because “Conservatives are tricky.” Aureliano goes to see a doctor, at the urging of his friends, to treat a pain in his liver. The doctor is a charlatan and former terrorist, who had convinced the youth of Macondo to vote to prove that elections were a farce and violence was necessary to attain their ideals. The doctor tells Aureliano that it’s his duty to assassinate Conservatives and Aureliano tells the doctor how his father-in-law rigged the election. The doctor shows Aureliano all the people he believes must be killed to exterminate Conservatism, and Aureliano thinks the doctor is “nothing but a butcher.”
Aureliano’s friends seem to know that visiting the doctor will help in the radicalization of Aureliano, making him a more dedicated follower of Liberal beliefs, but Aureliano finds the doctor to be extreme, prompting him to believe there is a more effective method of fighting for Liberal beliefs that doesn’t necessitate assassinating all of the Conservative leaders. He intends, instead, to make change within the official Liberal party, an important precursor to his later separation from the party into a rebel faction.
Aureliano Buendía promises he will not reveal the secret plan, though he won’t participate. When they go to murder the Moscote family, though, he guards the door. Arcadio, an adolescent now, tells Aureliano of the way the Liberal ideology has spread amongst his classmates. In December, Úrsula announces the news that war has broken out, though she is late, as martial law has been in effect for the whole country for three months. The soldiers ransack the houses for weapons again and execute the doctor, injuring and killing the priest and a mad woman in town. Aureliano realizes that Don Apolinar Moscote is just a figurehead now, that the army is who is really in charge.
Aureliano promises not to stop the actions of the radical group, but he remains committed to protecting his father-in-law, showing the way he balances both his ideals and his commitment to family. When Aureliano learns that Liberalism has spread through his nephew’s class, he realizes that it is the movement of the future, appealing to the youth. Macondo remains behind the times of the rest of Colombia, and Aureliano is an example of that on an individual basis.
Aureliano Buendía goes to the house of Gerineldo Márquez and tells him they will go to war to prevent this destruction. They conduct an operation in which they invade the garrison and steal the Conservatives’ weapons, executing the captain and four soldiers. Arcadio is named the civil and military leader of Macondo. Aureliano guarantees that Don Apolinar Moscote and his family will remain safe and asks that he call him Colonel Aureliano Buendía from now on.
Aureliano’s initial entry into the army is based around his desire to protect Macondo, though he promises to also keep his father-in-law’s family safe. Power moves from Don Apolinar Moscote to young Arcadio in the hopes of having a leader in place who will rule with a more reasonable hand while the rest of the men are off fighting in the war. Aureliano’s name change to Colonel Aureliano Buendía marks a change in identity, as well, that remains for the rest of the book.