Historians Uncover Fresh Details of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Time in Chile

A historical mystery solved

The Wild Bunch
A portrait of the Wild Bunch train robbers, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Bettmann Archive

Some of the historical figures immortalized in books and films are remembered for their best qualities. Others, though — well, let’s just say that popular culture has a fondness for outlaws. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were active from the 1880s through the early 1900s, and were memorably portrayed on screen by Paul Newman and Robert Redford in a 1969 film.

While the film is a beloved classic, the real-life history behind the duo’s exploits is a little messier — and involves slightly more murder. Anne Meadows and Dan Buck, her husband, have spent years in South America tracing the paths of the two outlaws — which has resulted in the book Digging Up Butch and Sundance, along with some subsequent discoveries.

As Uki Goñi reported for The Guardian, documents located in Chile’s national archive shed light on some previously unanswered questions surrounding the duo’s time in Chile — especially the actions the Sundance Kid, aka Harry Alonzo Longabaugh took while he was down there. Which apparently included killing a police officer, Arturo González.

Meadows told The Guardian about the document, which features a detailed account of the death of González and the actions that the U.S. vice consul in Chile, one Frank Aller, took in the aftermath — including signing for a bond that allowed for Longabaugh’s release while he awaited trial. Longabaugh did not stay long, however — instead, he and Cassidy left the country, putting Aller in an awkward financial position.

It’s a good reminder that archives can continue to illuminate and clarify historical events long after they took place — and that even the most familiar stories still have less-known elements.

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