Many when returning from a holiday like to have a glass of wine from the region of their vacation. Others might try the odd meal reminiscent of still being there. The more adventurous have a go at learning the language.
But nobody could have embraced the culture of a region as Tony Caccavone. Born during the war in working-class Somers Town, he moved at an early age to Clerkenwell, known at the time as ‘Little Italy’, a poor district of London populated by Italians, a place where I served my apprenticeship. Here he would have experienced the disparity between those with healthy bank balances and the many residents of this area with very little.
On his 1996 holiday, recommended by a Canadian passenger, to Cuba, he experienced a more egalitarian brand of communism and found it very appealing. So determined to educate the public (at the time the purchase of Cuban produce was banned by America), Tony decided to paint his cab with the Cuban flag, the first-ever cab with any national colours.
Determined to extol the island’s successes in health and education, and the country’s struggle to stay independent despite the United States blockage he contributed to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign participating in vigils, protests and events.
His cab would be seen all over London with Tony at the wheel wearing a Cuban straw canotier hat, telling his passenger about his love of the communist island. Not content with expressing his views, admittedly a trait of London’s cabbies, he shipped his cab to Canada to take part in a blockade-busting convoy taking aid across the border, through the United States and on to Cuba to raise awareness. He claimed the cab helped get the aid to Cuba intact, such is the power of the London vehicle.
The cab has now been taken off the road, one less interesting vehicle to spot while working, and has been donated to a motor museum in Havana.