Aloha on the Range

Hawaii's cowboys trace roots to Petaluma's Old Adobe and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo

His grin is as wide and warm as a ukulele as Hawaiian singer-songwriter Kuana Torres Kahele steps inside the Rancho Petaluma Adobe at Old Adobe State Park in Petaluma and greets his host: “Hola amigo! Cómo estás, senor!”

Patrick Garcia welcomes Kahele to Sonoma County with a hearty “Aloha!” Garcia is on the board of directors of the Petaluma-Sonoma State Historic Parks Association and maintains a personal connection to the local landmark.

Television crew members bustle through what is now the entranceway and museum of the historic Old Adobe. Amid the bustle, Garcia shows Kahele around and points out a painting. It’s a vivid depiction of several vaqueros on horseback: These are Mexican cowboys as they might have looked while working the ranchero in the early 1800s.

That’s when Garcia’s fifth-generation second cousin, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, built the adobe and established a major cattle operation here, before the region became part of the United States.

The vaqueros are the reason Kahele and company are in Sonoma County. Along with chef Ed Kenney, who has just made his own entrance into the adobe, Kahele and crew are here to shoot an episode of the award-winning TV show Family Ingredients. Hosted by Kenney, who owns a number of acclaimed restaurants in Hawaii, Family Ingredients offers an entertaining blend of cooking show, travelogue, and genealogical documentary as it traces Hawaiian culinary traditions to their roots.

The episode being filmed is all about beef—and there’s a direct link in Hawaii between the cattle and those vaqueros from whom Garcia is descended.

At the invitation of King Kamehameha III, a band of Mexican cowboys from this area traveled to Hawaii to teach the islanders riding, roping, and rounding-up skills. The paniolo—as Hawaiian cowboys came to be known—were greatly inspired by the vaqueros. Kahele himself pays tribute in the popular folk song Na Vaqueros, which is sung in Spanish and Hawaiian.

Kahele and Kenney are escorted into the courtyard, where Kahele will tell a few stories and sing Na Vaqueros for the cameras. Garcia lingers to tell a few stories of his own, before he suits up in the traditional vaqueros’ costume for his moment in the spotlight.

“The Californios, the vaqueros—they were needed to train the local people in Hawaii,” he says “where wild cattle were becoming a big problem. An Englishman had gone there, some years before, and had left a lot of cattle behind. The cattle eventually became pretty wild, and spread out into the different areas of Hawaii.

“The vaqueros became very popular in Hawaii,” he continues.

For this episode of Family Ingredients, which airs next spring, the producers filmed in Petaluma because the adobe is the best existing example of the type of rancheros the early vaqueros learned their trade at. Family Ingredients sets out to bring a sense of living history to the table, and by connecting Garcia and Kahele onscreen, the episode will highlight the connection that California and Hawaii share. That link continues any time a Hawaiian family throws a steak on the barbecue.