Walter Mercado, the exuberant Puerto Rican astrologer whose consejos reached millions of viewers in the U.S. and Latin America, has died. He was 87.
Mercado was renowned for his daily horoscopes delivered in dramatic fashion on Spanish-language television. While he never explicitly said anything about his sexuality, he nevertheless cemented his legacy as an icon in the gay community and was known for challenging male representation in Latin America.
“This is a culture that’s been dominated by machismo and homophobia for a very long time. For someone who so brazenly played with gender and sexuality and always remained something of a mystery ... he was really brave,” Alex Fumero, an L.A. filmmaker who worked on a documentary about Mercado, told the Los Angeles Times.
While Mercado began his career as an actor and dancer, his turn as an astrologer launched when he was asked to fill in on a Telemundo program in 1969 after a scheduled guest failed to show up. According to CNN,
The show’s producer asked Mercado to fill in for the guest by reading the horoscope. According to the foundation, the station was flooded with calls asking for Mercado to return and he launched a new career in astrology.
In 1970, Mercado began presenting a regular astrological segment on Telemundo Puerto Rico. From then on, he focused solely on astrology. He was broadcast in the 1980s on several television networks across Latin America and the United States.
Aside from the brio with which he delivered his horoscopes, Mercado was also beloved for his style, which often included colorful robes and enormous, glimmering jewelry. As he told the Miami Herald: “I have always liked to speak to people very directly. I have used astrology to send positive messages: ‘You can do it, even if you fall, get back up again.’”
The AP reports that Mercado died of kidney failure at a hospital in San Juan, where he’d spent several days prior to his death.