Andres Bermudez, a migrant who went from field hand to millionaire to mayor of this impoverished village, had grand plans to create jobs and improve his home town. But now, he says, he's had enough of Mexican politics and can't wait to return to California.
Bermudez, who just completed one year in office, said he knew his job would be difficult. Still, he wasn't prepared to deal with the red tape and partisan mudslinging.
"First, I left my home town because I wanted a better life for my children," he said, referring to his 1973 crossing into the United States, hidden in the trunk of a car with his pregnant wife.
"This time I abandoned my children to come help my town. But Mexico won't change. I just want to finish my three-year term and go back to the United States."
Accustomed to running his own business, Bermudez has had trouble working with the city council. Many were irked when he held his swearing-in ceremony at a bullfighting ring decorated with U.S. and Mexican flags -- while the outgoing mayor and council were waiting for him at an auditorium.
Before becoming mayor, he worked his way from field hand to labor contractor, then invented a tomato-planting machine that earned him the nickname "Tomato King."
He made history in 2001 by becoming the first migrant living in the United States to be elected mayor of a town in Mexico.
But the independent Federal Electoral Institute overturned the victory because he had not been a legal resident of Jerez -- a farming town of 60,000 people but with an estimated 60,000 more working in the United States -- for a full year before the election.
Bermudez then helped write a constitutional reform bill to allow part-time residents of Zacatecas state to run for office and to set aside at least two state legislative seats for migrants. Last year, the state legislature passed the law.
During his two campaigns, Bermudez, who has a junior high school education, touted himself as a simple man and promised to create jobs, fight corruption and promote the migrant cause. His gruff style and flamboyant personality -- he dresses in black, from his hat to his Tony Lama boots -- drew the support of many, but also generated harsh resistance.
To deliver his first annual report this month, he dressed in white, to symbolize transparency. Although the auditorium was filled with supporters thanking him for paved streets and new sewer systems, his hands shook as he turned the report's pages. Six council members stood with their backs to him.
"I lived liked a king," he said later. "I had everything a human being could wish for, but here I don't even get a full night's sleep. When you really want to help and make things work, this becomes a very tough job."
His main achievements have been paving many of the town's streets and providing free buses for students who attend the university in Zacatecas City, 60 miles away.
But making progress has been harder than he thought it would be, he said, blaming a lack of support from the federal government and the ill will of some council members.
Adriana Marquez, a city council member and Bermudez opponent, described the mayor as arrogant and confrontational and said he had mainly worked on paternalistic projects reminiscent of the past. "No mayor has ever been so disrespectful with the city council," Marquez said. "He says he is the Tomato King, but it looks like he wants to be king of Jerez."
Some critics have accused Bermudez of mishandling public funds, though no formal complaint has been filed. He says the allegation is a lie meant to undermine him.
Many in Jerez, however, support Bermudez.
Fabian Ortega, 47, a candy vendor with two brothers in California, said the mayor understood the people of Jerez because he, too, had left the poverty of Mexico. "I see this man as my hero," Ortega said.
Bermudez says his opponents are trying to force him to leave office. "They want me to fail. They want me to leave office because they want to prevent more migrants from running for office," Bermudez said. "They are happy to see us when we bring dollars, but they can't accept that a migrant can be mayor."
But Bermudez said he wasn't one to give up, even if he might prefer another battleground.
"Regardless of everything, I will keep fighting for my Jerez," Bermudez said. "But at this moment I can tell you, I'd much rather help them from the United States."