Walter Mercado, Latin-America’s most famous astrologer (and some will say drag-queen), passed away and rose to power over the weekend. He was in his 80s-ish.
Mercado was a one of a kind, flamboyant, and well regarded personality in the Spanish farandula, with millions of followers all over Latin-America and the US. He was perhaps the most famous astrologer we’ve seen in years due to his long career in show business, television, and publishing. Mercado became a household name in Puerto Rico when he began appearing in his show that ran from 1969 through the early 1990s; the show was later syndicated throughout Latin America and appeared in the United States as a late-night show. Walter would read the horoscopes of the 12 zodiac signs into the camera, rolling his r’s with gusto, elegantly twirling his hands for emphasis, clad in robes and colorful capes to add to his penchant for dramatic delivery of the week’s fortune. He had an estimated 120 million viewers a day. Over the years, he rose to fame, fell to penury, and rose again to become the star he was meant to be.
For years, I had a connection to Walter. People teased me about sharing a name with someone Hispanic people made fun of because of his mannerism and unabashed personality. Mercado was criticized for being effeminate, gay, or not manly enough. He was always referred to “as one of those,” for being “un pato,” or “un partido.” And yet, for all his femme qualities, people flocked to him for readings, advice, or spiritual guidance when life served them tea or gave them their just rewards. In an interview with Jorge Ramos for Univision, Mercado said about his sexuality: “The people want to know is Walter straight, homosexual, metrosexual, bisexual, I don’t care,” Mr. Mercado said through his thick, Charo-esque accent. “Here I am, I am who I am, that’s it.” So there.
Mercado took it all in stride. If he cared about the comments or felt he was being shamed, he never showed it publicly. Rather, he always answered in the best, kindest, and most compassionate manner and wished everyone what became his trademark sign off: “¡mucho, mucho, much amor!” – “much, much, much love!”
I will miss rushing to the newsstand every New Year’s Eve to read Walter’s predictions for the coming year. I will treasure the memory I have of meeting him twice when I was a kid in Puerto Rico and watching him come out from behind a curtain dressed in a golden cape that sparkled under the camera lights. Above all, I’ll miss his good humor, optimism, and penchant for the over-the-top, gaudy, and splendid backdrops that became his trademark.
Walter, I will miss you! ¡Y mucho, mucho, mucho amor para ti, siempre!