Starting with nothing but dreams, Puerto Rican born Walter Mercado found tremendous fame as an astrologer and is responsible for the popularity of astrology which we see today. He brought astrology to the masses through extraordinary daily shows, viewed by millions. This docu-film charts his journey to fame, the plague of the greedy which surrounded him at his peak and his eventual recovery from his qualms. This ark is of course predictable and safe, however the presence of Walter Mercado himself makes this docu-film truly exceptional.
I was once a star, now I am a constellation.
Walter Mercado was and remains an icon. Not only because he was so flamboyant and extroverted but also because of what he represented. His life’s work was to spread as much love and light to other people’s lives as possible. This is why he ended all of his shows with the title phrase of the docu-film itself. Mucho mucho amor (much much love). Considering his message of love, one can also not help but notice how Other Walter was. He is noted in the film to have star quality and stopping power. Walter was striking not only in appearance but also in context. He was an affectionate explosive and bright loud character, starting his career in Puerto Rico of 1969. To be adored and almost worshipped in the following decades in such a regressive, as it was, hyper masculine environment is an astonishing achievement.
Costantini and Tabsch quickly dispense with the suspense. Within minutes, Mercado, now 86 and as handsome as ever, welcomes the camera into his home in San Juan, whose tangerine- and mango-painted Moorish exterior hints at the glamour within: oil portraits, costumes, awards statues, personalised Ken dolls and a doting assistant named Willie who fetches his vitamins and fixes his makeup. Says Willie, he’s not merely Mercado’s right hand, “I’m the left one, too.” Vanity Fair
Throughout the docu-film we see many celebrity cameos, most notable Lin Manuel Miranda, whose admiration for Mercado was decades long. It is difficult for us Brits to understand the enormous effect Mercado had. He was on television and radio daily telling horoscopes to a captive audience of millions of people. He touched the lives of up to 120 million Latino viewers and at his peak, was broadcasted from Holland to Puerto Rico, achieving global celebrities. He met presidents and other notables. Throughout all of this he presented an image of light and a message of love.
I particularly admired Walter for his stance on religion. He takes parts from every religion and incorporates them into his shows, holding that no single religion should have the monopoly. In a way he is right. While I am a self confessed Catholic, I recognise that it is and must be an arrogance to believe there is one true God and we have found Him. All religions point to the same central tenet: be nice to one another and use your life well to the benefit of others. Walter recognised this and spread his message of love most wonderfully.
The docu-film culminates with Mercado at the opening of the HistoryMiami exhibition, celebrating 50 years since his first show.
Overall, this was one of the most moving, touching productions I have watched in a long time. Kudos to directors Costantini and Tabsch who managed to allow Walter an opportunity to tell his story in his own words shortly before his death, aged 87, in November 2019. Walter represented all that is bright and hopeful and spread a wonderful message. He was unabashedly Other but never discussed his sexuality. He defied expectations, gender roles and time itself. Walter’s body might be gone from this Earth but his spirit lives on and will always live. Please watch this wonderful heartfelt documentary and be enriched by a small glimpse into Walter’s world.