One Hundred Years of Solitude

by: Gabriel García Márquez

Úrsula Iguarán

Of all the characters in the novel, Úrsula Iguarán lives the longest and sees the most new generations born. She outlives all three of her children. Unlike most of her relatives, Úrsula is untroubled by great spiritual anxiety; in this sense, she is probably the strongest person ever to live in Macondo. She takes in Rebeca, the child of strangers, and raises her as her own daughter; she welcomes dozens of passing strangers to her table; she tries to keep the house from falling apart. Úrsula’s task is not easy, since all of her descendants become embroiled in wars and scandals that would cause any weaker family to dissolve. With Úrsula as their mainstay, however, the Buendías are irrevocably linked, for better or for worse. To keep the family together, Úrsula sometimes is quite harsh; for example, she kicks José Arcadio and Rebeca out of the house when they elope. This decision is partly a result of her unyielding fear of incest. Even though Rebeca and José Arcadio are not technically related, Úrsula is terrified that even a remotely incestuous action or relation will result in someone in the family having a baby with the tail of a pig. Her own marriage to José Arcadio Buendía is incestuous because they are cousins, and she constantly examines her children’s behavior for flaws, frequently saying, “[i]t’s worse than if he had been born with the tail of a pig.” Because of her fear of incest, Úrsula is a contradictory character: she binds the family together, but is terrified that incest, the extreme of family bonding, will bring disaster to the Buendía house.