The Buendías are from up north, near Riohacha, a port city on the north coast of Colombia. When British pirate-turned-privateer-turned-knighted-guy Sir Francis Drake attacked Riohacha at the end of the sixteenth century, Úrsula's great-great-grandmother freaked out so much that she went nuts for the rest of her life.
A small aside: how did the British rule the seas back in the day? Well, some of it was their navy, but mostly they issued permission slips for pirates to attack any foreign ships with impunity and leave the British alone. These pirates were known as privateers. Really successful ones would get whitewashed into history as naval heroes. Score!
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, the frightened great-great-grandmother.
So her husband moved the family far away inland to try and calm his wife down.
And that's where Úrsula and José Arcadio Buendía eventually met and married. Which is all well and good, except they were cousins, and so their families were a little stressed about the whole inbred children situation.
But love is love, and the heart wants what it wants, as they say.
Before the wedding, Úrsula's mom terrifies her with stories of crocodile children, so Úrsula refuses to consummate the marriage for several months. Word gets around town that she's still a virgin.
One day, after a rousing bout of cockfighting, a dude named Prudencio Aguilar insults José Arcadio about his virgin wife. José Arcadio goes home, gets a spear, and throws it at Prudencio's throat, killing him.
That night, Úrsula stops being a virgin.
Over the next few days, they start to see Prudencio Aguilar's ghost sadly meandering through the house looking for water with which to wash his throat wound.
It's less scary than pathetic. José Arcadio kills all of his game cocks, packs up the house, and, with a bunch of friends, decides to move from the little village to a new place, partly to bring peace to Prudencio's ghost.
They cross the mountains, wander around, and finally decide to stop looking for the sea and to settle on a little river.
During the journey, Úrsula gives birth to José Arcadio (II).
On the night they finally stop traveling, José Arcadio Buendía has a dream about a city where all the buildings have walls made out of mirrors. In the dream, the city is named Macondo, and so that's what they call it.
Return from flashback! When he sees the gypsy ice, José Arcadio Buendía thinks he's finally figured out the mirror-city dream: clearly ice will be the building material of the future and they won't be plagued with heat anymore.
But he doesn't get too carried away with the ice project because he's still into his kids' education.
José Arcadio (II) isn't into being in the alchemy lab with his dad and brother because he's just on the other side of puberty, during which he becomes crazily well-endowed in the under-the-pants department.
Pilar Ternera, a woman who works in the Buendía house helping with chores, finds out about this and decides to see for herself, basically by feeling him up. José Arcadio (II) starts fantasizing about her. He eventually goes to her house in the middle of night… and they get it on.
José Arcadio (II) and Pilar Ternera do this every night for a while, and he is so overwhelmed with the sex that he has no idea what else is going on in the house.
Meanwhile, José Arcadio Buendía and Aureliano have used the alchemy lab to extract the gold back out of the gross metal sludge they had made earlier.
Finally José Arcadio (II) can't keep things to himself and tells his brother Aureliano about Pilar. Aureliano lives vicariously through the descriptions.
Meanwhile, Úrsula gives birth to another child, a girl named Amaranta.
A few months later, the gypsies come back again. It's a new type of gypsies, who are all about entertainment and not sharing scientific discoveries. One of the things they bring is a flying carpet, but no one thinks about it as a mode of transportation. Instead, the Macondoans just ride around on it for fun.
But things are about to get serious in Pilar and José Arcadio (II)'s world. She's pregnant. When she tells him about it, he freaks out and starts to get really, really interested in his dad's laboratory again – mostly as a place to hide out whenever she's around.
One day, while walking through the gypsy fair, José Arcadio (II) sees a very young gypsy girl. He follows her around, presses against her to demonstrate what he's got down his pants, and they go into a tent to make out. (Huh. Things go a little faster in this world than in real life, don't you think?)
The tent is apparently part of a brothel, since just as José Arcadio (II) and the girl are rounding the bases, another gypsy woman comes in with a local dude.
José Arcadio (II) is overcome by some kind of amazing sexual euphoria. Two days later he leaves town with the gypsies.
Úrsula takes off in search of him. His trail grows cold and she disappears.
Now Úrsula is gone. José Arcadio Buendía takes care of baby Amaranta, and slowly he and Aureliano try to build a new life for themselves. Secretly, though, José Arcadio Buendía is constantly praying for Úrsula to come back. Finally she does, five months later.
Úrsula comes back with a whole bunch of new people who live in a town on the other side of the swamp, where they get mail and aren't cut off from the rest of the world. Basically, Úrsula has finally found the road out of town.