"Walter Mercado influenced a generation of people to embrace themselves. His viewers passed down his messages of love and positivity to their children."
Walter Mercado was a force that permeated Latino households with positive affirmations and fabulous outfits. His astrological readings inspired people around the globe and he continues to impact many lives today. For some, he was a segment that played in the background of their living rooms. But for others, raised by his readings, he became their entire world. Mercado provided hope for those watching and inspired generations of believers who had faith in their future.
Mercado's legacy is rooted in the number of homes he was able to enter. The HistoryMiami Museum reported in his 30 years on television, he reached 120 million Latino viewers a day. Most recently, his story has been transformed into a Netflix documentary called Mucho Mucho Amor: a story of his journey into stardom with details about the battle he faced with ownership of his image. Despite an unfortunate downfall, his fans have kept his name alive in many ways.
Alex Fumero has a special place in his heart for Walter Mercado. The Mucho Mucho Amor producer says his grandma only cared to watch TV when Mercado was speaking. Fumer says, "she had a very tough life, a 4th-grade education, [always worked] long hours, [and] fled authoritarianism in Cuba. So I think Walter was this little beacon of hope that maybe things would be easier or predictable if she listened closely. She died really suddenly when I was away on a school trip when I was 15. It really rocked me. We were very close. I think Walter became this memory of her. Making this film was a way to connect with her again and Walter became like a new Abuelitx."
The documentary is a compelling ode to Mercado's colorful life. A Puerto Rican astrologer, actor, and personality that filled the room with energy. Viewers get a glimpse of what that personality looked like up close.
One of Mercado's most remarkable attributes was his ability to break gender stereotypes –challenging the narrative of Latinx identity and sexuality. At one point in the film, he tells the directors, "I have sexuality with the wind, with the flowers in the garden, with all the beautiful display of nature! I have sex with life! I have sex with everything! With the clothes, with beauty!"
Walter Mercado influenced a generation of people to embrace themselves. His viewers passed down his messages of love and positivity to their children. Those children have resurrected his legacy in their art and shared it online. Mercado became a social media phenomenon as Latino publications started to share their stories.
Artists and creatives have developed an unofficial digital archive of Mercado’s influence by sharing works inspired by him. Elisa Faye, a designer and illustrator whose Mercado inspired digital art circulated on Instagram says, "I know for lots of people watching Walter was a family affair, but when he was on TV my parents were usually out working so I remember watching him alone or with my babysitter and being in a sort of enchanted trance as his arms moved like flamenco dancers. I was very young so I'm sure a lot of what he said flew over my head, but it clearly landed in my heart because since then every time I see Walter I feel a warm feeling in my heart that is hard to explain." Mercado created a space for acceptance. Free of judgment and negativity.
For Dear Southside creator Estefani Alarcon, Mercado was a staple in her home. Her family would anxiously gather around the TV waiting for him to reach their sign while playfully teasing each other about what he would say about them. Alarcon says, "I never imagined a world without him, he felt immortal because of all the good spirits he expressed [sic] like he would forever remain in our hearts which is true and I think a lot of people who grew up watching his segment would agree." Many people do agree and have honored his legacy in Miami.
HistoryMiami Museum has an exhibition of Mercado's costumes and mementos to celebrate his life. The museum honored Mercado and said he was "One of the world’s most famous astrologers, he is a part of the cultural zeitgeist for Latinos and remains a popular figure that transcends generations."
Mercado will always be in the hearts of his listeners and his legacy will carry on "con mucho mucho amor."
Meet The Family
Kim Quitzon is a multimedia journalist specialized in documentary filmmaking and social media storytelling. She is an LA Press Club Finalist for her work on Dimelo and recently graduated with her M.A. from USC.