HAVANA - Alberto Granado, who accompanied Ernesto "Che" Guevara on a 1952 journey of discovery across Latin America that was immortalized in Guevara's memoir and on-screen in "The Motorcycle Diaries," died in Cuba Saturday. He was 88.
Granado, an Argentine who had lived in Cuba since 1961, died of natural causes, according to Cuban state-run television, which gave no other details.
Granado and Guevara's road trip, begun on a broken-down motorcycle they dubbed La Poderosa, or "The Powerful," awoke in Guevara a social consciousness and political convictions that would help turn him into one of the most iconic revolutionaries of the 20th century.
Granado was born Aug. 8, 1922, in Cordoba, Argentina, and befriended Guevara as a child.
As young medical students, the two witnessed deep poverty across the continent - principally Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela - and their stay at a Peruvian leper colony left a particularly deep impression.
Guevara would later join Fidel and Raul Castro as they sailed from exile in Mexico to Cuba aboard a yacht called the Granma in 1956. Their small band of rebels ultimately toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959.
Granado visited Cuba at Guevara's invitation in 1960 and moved to Havana the following year with his family, teaching biochemistry at Havana University. He had lived in Cuba ever since, maintaining a low profile.
One of his sons, also named Alberto Granado, is head of Africa House, a center in Havana that celebrates African culture.
In his authoritative biography of Guevara, Jon Lee Anderson wrote that Granado was "barely five feet tall and had a huge beaked nose, but he sported a barrel chest and a footballer's sturdy bowed legs; he also possessed a good sense of humor and a taste for wine, girls, literature and rugby." According to Cuban television, Granado requested that his body be cremated and his ashes spread in Cuba, Argentina and Venezuela. Funeral arrangements were not announced.
Guevara was captured and killed by soldiers in Bolivia in 1967 as he tried to foment revolution in the Andean nation.