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MEXICO’S fe ,a footetace A Here in the world’s most magnificent playground is the lovely LAS HAMACAS, which means “The Hammocks.” At the edge of sparkling Acapulco Bay. New rooms and suites, air-conditioned. Finest food. English is spoken. Credit cards honored. MOTOR HOTEL For beautiful color folder or information write to: Arturo Cordova, Manager HOTEL LAS HAMACAS P.O. Box 399, Acapulco, Mexico An Irrational Hostility in Mississippi Portland, Ore. When you come into Oxford, Mississippi, you are struck by the peacefulness and beauty and dignity of an old university town. The folks at gas stations, in cafes, and along the street smile and nod at ydu as they slowly walk by with maybe a friendly “How yew?” And you say “Just fine, thanks, and you?” and you feel good. The chaotic world of the Negro seems far away as you eat dinner in this quaint, quiet little town where William Faulkner found enough “pity and compassion and love and sacrifice” to immortalize and universalize the human experience around him in his mythological Yoknapatawpha county. But last night I learned that the other worldthe world of fear and hatred and violencewas not far away at all; I learned that they were, in fact, the same. Giving my former Texas address \(Ore Betty Allgood Merten received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in 1960, received her masters at the University of Oregon \(her thesis was on FaulkPortland, Ore. “Mine is a distant involvement,” she says. 12 The Texas Observer Betty Allgood Merten into a comfortable motel about 8 p.m. and was enjoying the luxuries of hot water, clean sheets, and privacy when a loud knock on the door shook me out of my thoughts. WHO IS IT?” I askced. After a pause, “Hey, Tex, we want to talk to yew.” “I’m sorry, but I’m in .bed,” I replied, thankful for the inside lock on my door and for the program blaring forth from the T.V. Five minutes later the phone rang. Not knowing anyone in Oxford, I was startled. A male voice identified himself as the “fellow in 106” and informed me that he, too, was from Texas and would like to “talk Texas” with me. After exchanging sentimentalities about our homeland, we took an abrupt turn when he changed in tone and said, “Now Tex, some of the people around here thought maybe you was one of them civil rights workers.” There it was, dropped in my . ear like a bomb. “Oh?” I managed to respond. “Why would they think that?” He proceeded to inform me that outside intruders had been coming in “stirring up trouble,” and since I was new in town and traveling alone some of the people at ha ve desk figured I was one of them. They have to be suspicious of everyone, he said, “for their own good.” He then interrogated me: “Where are you going? How long will you be in Oxford? Why have you come?” Apparently satisfied that I had come to see Faulkner’s home and special collection at the library, he said, “Well, Tex, I’m sure glad you’re not one of them, ’cause there could be some trouble if you was.” But his tone seemed to tell me more than the words. In my newly revived Southern accent I thanked him and hung up wondering if I were cast in a grade B mystery movie or if the danger was real. Suddenly I remembered what a staff member of the Council of Federated Organizations had said in the Jackson office: “We’re relatively safe here; it’s the kids out in the field and those who are peripherally associated who get hurt.” I called the only number I had, a Dr. Thomas Truss of the University of Mississippi English department, who sent Phil Patterson, an Ole Miss student who has been repeatedly “roughed up” on campus for his involvement in the integration movement. While Dr. Truss was asking Phil to pick me up, I heard breathing on the line; when he hung up I heard two clicks. I QUICKLY DRESSED, waited the ten minutes it would take Phil to reach the motel, then walked to the office to pay my bill. The desk clerk who had greeted me so warmly three hours ago, the one who had listened to my conversation to Dr. Truss, had been replaced by the night shift man, but he had not left. He stood against the wall, arms folded, as if he were waiting for something or someone. When Phil arrived the man shot him a look, went out the other door, got into a car, and started the motor; he sat waiting with his lights off until Phil and I drove away. He started to follow but evidently changed his mind when he saw us heading for the university faculty residential area. Phil explained that after assaulting him several times during the spring, “white citizens” have left him alone: “They know now that if they touch me they’ll have some university profs and Episcopal priests after them.” When Dr. Truss met us at the front door, Phil told him, “I saw that look down there; it’s a damn good thing she called.” What amazes me most about this incident is the quality I came to recognize: Beneath the superficial hospitality which greets you lurks an irrational hostility. Such a quality indicates the sickness of Mississippi. If you’re planning to visit the ante-bellum South this summer, don’t. LI