One never knows what to expect when this West Coast cowboy hits the stage.  His audiences have learned to expect the unexpected.  As the breakout star of the 2007 Pena Fandango event, his shows were so sizzling hot that even the other entertainers made it a point to catch him in action.  What might Barrera do during one of his shows:
Barrera’s amazing skills have even caught the attention of a number of musicians.  He has been in collaboration with Jeff Jaworski, leader of Northern California punk band, Red Tape.  Barrera was the lead cowboy-hero character in Red Tape’s musical video.  The video will be released in the summer of 2007.  Hailie O’Ryan, singer and recording artist, has discussed utilizing Barrera as a possible feature performer in some of her live shows.  And Barrera has done several live shows with Central Valley songstress, Berta Olivia Torres.  These shows were an experiment for both Barrera and Torres.  That is in terms of working Barrera’s routines together with Torres’ music.  And the audiences loved the end results.

Unlike your typical Hollywood “action star” or stuntman, Barrera doesn’t need to hide behind computer graphics, wire work, slow-motion camera tricks or stunt doubles.  His fans call Barrera a walking, talking special effect.  And he does it all live on stage.  And what makes it even more fun is that his work with the microphone is as impressive as his fancy lariat work.  Barrera will go into a stream-of-consciousness rapport where he weaves in the soundman, the stage manager, members of the audience and even other entertainers who might wander a little to close to his stage.  His warmth, charm and razor-sharp wit allows the people to feel a connection that is rare between an entertainer and an audience.


During the past 17 years, Barrera, as manager for the Folklorico Latino de Woodland, has taken this highly regarding Mexican folkdance troupe touring throughout California.  The group and Barrera have worked with such legendary artists such as Linda Rondstadt, the late Juan Zaiser, trick roping champion Tomas Garcilazo, Mariachi Vargas and Mariachi Camperos de Nati Cano.

Aside from emceeing most of the high-profile shows, Barrera is built a reputation as a master trick and fancy roper and bullwhip artist.  Due to his flashy showmanship and appealing stage presence his fans originally dubbed him: “The Latino Will Rogers.”  And after his highly successful run at the 2005 California State Fair, his fans created a new moniker that says it all: “Super Cowboy.”  The exotic art form that he displays on stage, “floreo de riata,” was originally brought over to the United States from Mexico over 100 years ago.  Barrera first picked up the art over a decade ago when he wrote a series of articles on the history, the development and the star performers of the lariat.  After the articles were published, he began getting requests to talk about and perform this art.

“I went into my backyard and practiced four months before I put it on stage at the 1994 Folklorico Latino de Woodland Anniversary Showcase,” Barrera said.  “An arts reviewer, Holly Johnson happened to be in the audience.  She wrote a great review.  She described singer Bertha Torres and myself as being rising stars.  It all kind of snowballed from there.  Bertha’s career got a shot in the arm, and people started asking about me.  Well, my lariat and me that is.”
This Cowboy's Crazy Life!
Aside from performing with the Folklorico Latino troupe, Barrera is constantly sought after as a solo performer at schools, variety shows, night clubs, county fairs and other special events.  Because of his published work, he is regarded as a historian and expert on the art of trick roping.  This trick-roping cowboy has also been the subject of a television profile on KVIE Channel 6’s Central Valley Chronicles program.  And if that’s not enough, this multi-talented, multi-tasking performer also writes a monthly arts and culture column for Vida en el Valle, an English/Spanish newspaper.

“What fascinated me about these beautiful art forms is that they are one of the few true ‘Western Arena’ arts created on the American continent,” Barrera said.  “These arts exemplify the true spirit of the Charro and American cowboy.  I leave the stage for the last time, a wonderful chunk of Americana and Western history will be lost forever.  It’s such a beautiful art that I’ll do what I can to keep it alive.  Who knows, maybe I can inspire some young person to start spinning the ropes and carry it on for the upcoming generations.”

When not spinning his ropes, Barrera is an accomplished athlete who has delved into many sports such as gymnastics, trampoline, boxing, wrestling and martial arts.  He is also an avid power lifter who at 175 pounds has bench pressed up to 365 pounds.  Many of his fans are very familiar with his power lifting exploits throughout the Northern California area.

But only a handful of people have ever witnessed Barrera’s bruising training routines with the lariats and bullwhips.  The will to improve upon previous performances motivates him to push forward.  The man with the whips has modified his training routines for his particular needs.  The extreme hand-eye coordination drills that have allowed Barrera to reach a level of excellence that few entertainers will ever reach.

Barrera previously worked as a Single Copy Area Manager for the Circulation Department of the Sacramento Bee.  Barrera is also an occasional freelance writer, whose work has been published in major magazines such as Western Horseman, Hispanic magazine, Grit and True West.  He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Government-Journalism from the California State University, Sacramento. He is currently focusing more attention to his troupe, the Folklorico Latino de Woodland, which recently won a "2007 Best of Sacramento Award" from Sacramento Magazine.  And he is also working closely with webmaster, Sam Montoya, in ramping up this website to promote his shows throughout California and beyond.

James Barrera
Trick Roper / Whipmaster
1711 Amador Way                                 Home (530) 666-6140                                trickroperjm@aol.com
Woodland, CA                                        Cell (916) 747-3154

www.sacbee.com- Thursday, May 28, 2009

 

 
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