“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado” is the spiritually healing and fascinating documentary on famed Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado. Directed by Cristina Constantini and Kareem Tabsch, the Netflix film follows Mercado’s life, a wanderer of life, astrology and joy, who appeared in the television of millions of Latino households for many decades. It’s a memory shared across Spanish-speaking audiences who saw Mercado on their television screens. His sign off, “pero sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor,” is the lasting impression of the film itself; enchanting, doting, and as simply marvelous as Walter himself. “Shh, aquí viene Acuario,” my grandmother would say, as she eagerly waited to see what good fortune Walter’s readings would bestow onto her that week. A trailblazer within the Latinx and LGBTQ community, Mercado broke barriers with his flamboyant and decadent capes, runway hair and love for his people. After Mercado’s sudden departure from air time, many were left wondering what became of his life after that. The documentary offers answers, as well as a personal and fruitful side of the astrologer’s life, as told by Walter.
Mercado, seen throughout the film in his home in Puerto Rico, grew up in a farm town. From a young age, his miraculous encounter in healing a bird made him a popular deity of sorts among neighbors. Word got out and spread that, even from an early age, there was something extraordinary about Walter. He grew to make it big in the entertainment business, going from what was thought to be a whim appearance on-air to striking big network deals for his hit astrology appearances. As his background in theatre and soaps would indulge, he came in with extravagant, colorful capes and gowns, like a magnificent Latinx wizard of good karma. This image, in all of its beads, blowouts and jewel galore, became a staple in Latinx culture. Not only was he paving the way for young LGBTQ fans to express themselves, he was also living his truth with great pleasures. Talking head interviews with those close to him— his longtime assistant, comedians, actors, even an earnest meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda— show a sense of community that always found a voice in Mercado’s words and continue to see him as a gift.
Constantini and Tabsch do well to recognize the impactful and trailblazing icon that Mercado was in his heyday. Not ever being explicit with his apparent asexuality, Mercado simply says he is attracted to life itself, and who could even deny that? For so much of Mercado’s life, his willingness to love and open arms to the universe has long been a pillar of his character, a selfless, warm soul with no adherence to customary stock – true legend who only speaks empowerment to his audience. The film follows Mercado as he preps for his commemorative showcase in Puerto Rico, with fans coming to celebrate his life’s work and meet him. Mercado passed away in his home just a few months after in November of 2019.
As much as the film celebrates this uniqueness, its also depicts the hardships and legal battles that struck the astrologer’s life. His former manager, Bill Bakula, is interviewed in the film, reminiscing how he came to discover Mercado and worked with him over the years. The longtime relationship came to a halt when a legal battle ensued, with Bakula getting Mercado to sign off ownership of his name and entire brand, truly unbeknownst to Walter. This played a factor in Mercado’s sudden disappearance from on-air work in 2006.
Mercado’s dazzling image was also unique to the times he was so widely celebrated in. For so long, the Latin community has mocked femininity in men, quietly denouncing it, largely influenced by the culture’s glaring machismo. Nonetheless, Mercado’s work was largely accepted, but was sometimes met with inane comedic bashing in the entertainment world. Whether lovingly or childishly, Mercado’s flashy and theatrical image was poked at in comedy shows, interviews and the general zeitgeist. Maybe society didn’t yet know what it had in someone like Walter.
“Mucho Mucho Amor” treks the life Mercado led post his later years and it’s a treat to see him, in his home, ritualistically applying makeup and dawning the chic capes he was always known for. It examines his celebrity image, but that of an ageing masterpiece. Mercado is like fine wine, growing flavorful finesse as the years go by because his high spirits have no limitations. Through colorful animations meant to exude tarot card energy, “Mucho Mucho Amor” is a celebration of a life that touched so many Latin homes. It’s the beating energy of Mercado’s legacy as someone who just wanted to disperse magic and healing hope to his audience.
Directed by: Cristina Constantini, Kareem Tabsch