Added by Pedro J. Caceres, 12/9/2015:
The term "cedar" was, and is, commonly used in the vernacular in reference to reddish, fragrant, coniferous woods. It should be noted that it can be confusing, as the species included under the generic use of "cedar" include Sequoia, Cypress, Junipers, and the true Cedars (Cedrus).
Juniper (Rocky Mountain Juniper "Juniperus Scopulorum", etc.) and “Cedar", (in the U.S, Western Redcedar, "Thuja Plicata"), are not true Cedars (Cedrus) at all. "Thuja" and "Juniperus" are members of the Cypress family,
"Thuja Plicata" (Western Redcedar) is not native to the New Mexico region, nor was it widely available as commercial timber in Patrocinio Barela's region during that era. In fact, it is still difficult to come by south and east of Idaho/Washington, or S. Oregon/ N. Calif. areas in un-milled form (i.e., whole logs, trunks, branches).
The density and hardness of the wood Barela's pieces are carved in is not characteristic of Western Redcedar, which very is soft and lightweight, and its grain is almost “dusty” when handled. Cedar does carve well (huge northwestern totems, etc…), and is easily worked, but does not tend to hold sharp lines or crisp edges over time because of how soft its fibers are.
Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus Scopulorum), on the other hand was widely available were Barela lived and worked, especially in the Southern Colorado/New Mexico region. “Rocky Mountain Juniper” can form whole stands of forest in some areas and is very prevalent in mixed confierous/hardwood forests throughout New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. The grain patterns and coloration in Barela's sculptures more closely match Juniper, as do the weight/density and the clear definition of the tool marks characteristic of harder woods.