Blog Header: City Logo

Multicultural Roots Project

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

View All Posts

Apr 19

Remembering Rene “La Borrega” Urena, Co-Founder of 1 Firme Car Club

Posted on April 19, 2022 at 11:46 AM by Danielle Garduno

Web_ReneUrena

Photo Credits: Matthew Pak (left photo); Pocho Photos (right photo)

Everyone who knew Rene “La Borrega” Urena could testify to the strength of his character. He was kind, giving, and passionate about life, and it showed in his commitment to his family, friends, coworkers, and beyond. As the co-founder of 1 Firme Car Club, he was considered an original member of the Sonoma County lowrider community. He took tremendous pride in his craft and could often be seen cruising Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa in his gorgeous gold 1964 Ford Galaxie lowrider. 1 Firme Car Club celebrated its 20th anniversary on March 31, 2021, a date purposefully chosen by Rene to honor the legacy of labor activist and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who was Rene’s personal hero. When Rene passed away in June 2021, his family and friends became determined to see that his legacy lived on, especially within the Sonoma County lowrider community. His sister, Veronica Garcia, says of her brother: “I would like to see his legacy live on by continuing to low ride and for lowriding to never stop, because that’s who Rene was. He will always be a lowrider.” 

Originally from Los Angeles, Rene moved to Sonoma County as a teenager. According to his sister, Veronica, it was here that he made friends with Marco and Hector Gutierrez, the friends that would ultimately help Rene find his love of cars and lowriding. When he was 19 years old, he purchased his 1964 Ford Galaxie and would drive Veronica and her friends all over Sonoma County. At the age of 25, he co-founded 1 Firme Car Club which continues to be one of the biggest car clubs in Sonoma County. Members of the car club come from local farm working families, ranging from communities between Windsor and Cloverdale. The club currently organizes the car show at the annual Fiesta de Independencia, held at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.

Rene was a fixture at car shows and other events, and he was known for his authenticity and empathetic nature. “He would always say, ‘Va estar bien,’ (‘it’s going to be alright’). He was always calm and positive...he never worried,” says Veronica.  

We also asked Veronica about his nickname, “La Borrega,” which translates to “the sheep.” She said, “...Rene never wore a sweater, he was never cold, not even in December when he would sleep with the window open. His friends started calling him [la borrega] because just like sheep and their wool coats, Rene was never cold. There was a time when he was at the beach in the middle of November with some friends and a Marine that had just come home kept bragging about all the tough things he had to endure, one being the cold temperatures in the water. So, Rene challenged him to go into the ocean to see who could last the longest, and of course Rene won. The Marine was shocked and gave Rene his credit for being able to last longer.” 

Eddie Alvarez, City of Santa Rosa Vice Mayor and owner of Hook Dispensary, had been friends with Rene for 30 years. Eddie says, "You thought of [Rene] as your best friend even if your interaction lasted 10 seconds or 10 years. His heart hurt if yours did, and he’d cheer you on when you needed it. That is the type of human he was. I’ve not met a more selfless person, nor do I expect to meet any one with a heart that equals his.” Vice Mayor Alvarez’s words regarding Rene surely resonate with all who knew and loved him. His legacy lives on in the lives he’s touched, whether he met them through low riding, through work, or just out and about in the community. Rene Urena was truly a community leader, and the success of 1 Firme Car Club shows his and his team’s commitment to promoting low riding and lowrider culture. Today, the official 1 Firme Instagram page, @1_firme_car_culture, has almost 93,000 followers from around the world. Although Rene is no longer with us, his hard work, his passion, and his drive live on in everyone who had the honor of meeting him.  

To learn more about Rene Urena, visit the links below. 

References:

Press Democrat: Santa Rosa lowrider community mourns death of club co-founder Rene Urena 

La Prensa Sonoma: La comunidad Lowrider de Santa Rosa lamenta la muerta de un cofundador local de un club 

YouTube: Photos of Rene Urena 

 This Multicultural Roots Project blog was written by Haley Katz, Community Engagement AmeriCorp VISTA.