Walter Mercado, a charismatic and widely adored astrologer, commanded the attention of millions of Latinx families almost every afternoon since the 1970s. They’d sit quietly, patiently waiting by the television to hear Mercado read their daily horoscopes, ready to soak in his dramatic guidance and contagious optimism.
But after decades of enthralling viewers, the Puerto Rican icon disappeared from the airwaves, sparking numerous theories about his show’s sudden exit. A new Netflix documentary, “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado,” searches for the answers.
“I am a fortune-teller, but I don’t like to know my future. I just want to enjoy this moment of my life,” Mercado says in the trailer.
Though Mercado died in November 2019, he tells the story of his life throughout the feature-length doc with the help of other Latinx stars, such as playwright and actor Lin Manuel-Miranda, actor Eugenio Derbez, and “El Gordo y la Flaca” host Raúl De Molina. The film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020.
Award-winning directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch bring power and justice to Mercado’s journey — which includes a legal battle over the ownership of his internationally known persona.
“I can guarantee you Walter did not make millions on that,” says Maria Lopez Alvarez, the creator of the Univision news program “Primer Impacto,” in the trailer. “He didn’t have someone really looking out for him.”
After severing ties with entertainment company Bart Enterprises International, Mercado wanted full control over his name and likeness. The legal battle lasted for years until Mercado won the rights back to his name in 2011. In the documentary, Mercado and company tell his side of this dispute, along with the vibrant story of his rise to stardom.
At the height of Mercado’s fame, more than 120 million viewers tuned in to watch him onstage with his vibrant and eccentric costumes, cape and makeup. Many thought of him as a friend, a mentor who could lead them in the right direction despite the fact that in the early 1970s, there was no one else on television in the Latinx community who looked like him.
Mercado was glamorous, vivacious and gender non-conforming, but he managed to thrive in a culture steeped in masculinity and conservative values. His hands danced and his capes swirled.
“Since the moment I was born, I know that I was not like everybody,” Mercado says in the trailer. “Everything about me was different.”
The documentary explores how unexpected and remarkable Mercado’s success was, and what it meant for Latinx folks watching at home.
“Mucho, Mucho Amor” is now on Netflix.