“Mucho, mucho amor” are words I heard almost every day when I was growing up, listening to Walter Mercado’s radio and television shows like the super-popular Walter y Las Estrellas. The famous Puerto Rican astrologer (who passed away in 2019) is back in the headlines thanks to the new Netflix documentary Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, but he’s always been a part of my life. Before I ever dreamed of being a professional astrologer, Mercado was a cool and glamorous person I looked up to—while at the same time, his voice was so familiar and his horoscopes so accurate that he felt like family. He was so much more than an astrologer—he was someone I could rely on who would deliver positivity and love.
My grandmother was obsessed with Walter Mercado—and still is. She hailed from Cuba by way of Miami and NYC, and she grew up listening to his forecasts on her radio. As a teenager, she watched his segments on cable television and would always remain quiet when he pulled a tarot card for her zodiac sign. She would gasp in awe as he revealed her deepest feelings with one sentence or look. Yes, you know the look I mean—where he smirks at the camera and raises an eyebrow with a twinkle in his eye.
It wasn’t just her own horoscope that my grandmother listened to; she still bases her assessment of other people on Mercado’s interpretations of their signs. She is a Leo (a fact she prides herself on to this day) and my grandfather was a Libra. I remember my grandmother telling me that fire signs (like Leo) and air signs (like Libra) are good together because they help each other evolve toward greatness—but fire can consume air. When she meets new people, she still looks to their Sun sign’s element (fire, water, earth, or air) to figure them out. She learned the basics of astrology from listening to, reading, and watching Walter Mercado. And as a result of her obsession, she first began schooling me on the elements when I was 4.
When Mercado began his astrology career with a Telemundo segment in 1969, there weren’t any well-known mainstream astrologers in the Latinx community—or any astrologers who were known around the world. This isn’t to say that astrology wasn’t present in Latinx culture—it very much was, in Santería and Brujería traditions. Latinx culture is intertwined with religion and spirituality. With colonization, Indigenous and West African Yoruba beliefs merged with Catholicism, and these traditions became an ingrained part of many familial roots, a way in which people form a deep connection to their ancestors and the spirits. Yet practicing these traditions was stigmatized or even illegal when Mercado rose to fame.
Mercado’s practice drew from Santería but also from other spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. “I respect the biblical God, but my God is love. The more love I give, the more love I receive,” he told the Miami Herald in 2019. His diverse range of influences made him a Spiritualist, and combined with his race, this made it easier for him to break into the mainstream than his Afro-Latinx Santero and Brujo peers.
He greatly benefited from this privilege, yet Mercado honored all spiritual traditions. Watching his series, you could get your astrological chart read, see your personal daily tarot card pull, hear a psychic perspective, and draw esoteric insights. Not only that, but he also helped people feel seen and understood—in the Netflix documentary, he says his goal is “to give a beautiful message of love and peace.” His positivity was infectious. Yes, his capes were flashy (and I love them), but he also broke down societal barriers. Thanks to him, I could dish about my interest in the cosmos—and not only that, but I could also bond with my grandmother over the stars. We could laugh about our zodiac signs and learn tarot together.
Like Mercado, my first career wasn’t in astrology. At first, I wanted to study gems and crystals as a gemologist or mineralogist, then I found myself working in the fashion industry followed by food service and the music industry. When I told my family that I’d decided to work as an astrologer, they embraced it because Mercado had shown them that astrology can help people every day.
Mercado’s ability to warm the hearts of his audience helped change the way we relate to the stars and astrologers. It’s now normal to attribute our personality quirks to our birth charts and read our horoscopes—in part because of his influence. Mercado spoke to people, like my grandmother and myself, who believed. He made it possible for us to see the magic within ourselves.
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