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Celebrating Heritage: Don Adolfo Camarillo

  • 3 min read

You might have noticed that on the back of every Country six pack is a message from me about my great great grandfather – a man who believed strongly in working hard and helping others.

As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month, I thought I’d tell you a little more about him and my family roots here in Alta California, or what we now call California. 

His name was Adolfo Camarillo, son of Juan and Martina Hernandez Camarillo.


In 1834, Juan Camarillo, a 22-year old Tailor’s apprentice, had joined the Hijar expedition to Alta California from Mexico City with newly appointed governor of Mexico, Don Jose Maria Hijar.

(Image: Juan and Martina)

Settling in Santa Barbara, he opened a merchandise store, and years later began to invest in land. While there, he met Martina, a descendant of a Spanish/Mexican “Californio” family with history in California dating back to 1768.

In 1864, Juan and Martina had two sons – Juan Jr. and Adolfo, and a few years later purchased land and built their dream ranch, “Rancho Camarillo”.

Upon his father’s death, Adolfo Camarillo took over operations of the family ranch at age 16. 

Don Adolfo Camarilllo

“Don Adolfo Camarillo (29 October 1864 – 10 December 1958) was a Californio philanthropist, ranchero, and horse breeder, known for founding the city of Camarillo, California, along with his brother Juan Camarillo Jr. Camarillo also donated the land for local schools, freeways, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and even erected churches including St. Mary Magdalena. The horse breed Camarillo White Horse was named for Camarillo. He began breeding them in 1921 and the line continues today. Because of his philanthropy in 1950, Pope Pius XII named him a Knight of St. Gregory the Great.” (Wikipedia)

The Legendary Sultan (Camarillo White Horse)

The Camarillo White Horse is a relatively Spanish-blooded horse known for its pure white color. This breed dates back to 1921, when Camarillo purchased a nine-year-old horse named Sultan from the Miller and Lux cattle ranch at the California State Fair in Sacramento. Over the next few years, Sultan won many stock championships throughout California. Camarillo bred Sultan to Morgan mares at the ranch. 

Adolfo expressed a deep fondness for Sultan, calling him "A stallion of a dream." 

"A stallion of a dream." 

From the 1930s on, Camarillo White Horses became famous all along the California coast for their performances at various events. They became well known in the Rose Parade and even attended the parade to open the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

camarillo horses

They are the official horse of the city of Camarillo. They have appeared in every Santa Barbara Fiesta parade since it began in 1924. Many people of note have ridden Camarillo White Horses, including (then-Governor) Ronald Reagan, 1946 Nobel Peace Prize recipient John Mott, movie star Leo Carrillo, and Steven Ford (son of President Gerald Ford).

carmen camarillo

Even Deeper Roots

The Camarillo family roots in California stretch further back to the Gaspar de Portola Expedition of 1768. 

Martina was the great-granddaughter of Maria Antonia Victoria Carrillo and Don Jose Francisco Ortega, who served under Portola’s command.

Celebrating Heritage

Adolfo’s legacy continues today in the Camarillo community and in the values he passed onto future generations like us. Today, all month long…  and always – we salute all those of hispanic heritage. ¡Salud!