When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, everyone knew who Walter Mercado was. When he was on Telemundo we would all remain in complete awe and silence as he dominated the screen with an almost supernatural presence. Filled with charisma, theatrical enthusiasm, and flamboyance, Mercado gave the latinx community astrological readings that were almost always steeped in hope, optimism, and spirit. Along the way he broke barriers becoming a worldwide sensation as a guru who defied gender, sexual, and style barriers everywhere he went.
“Mucho Mucho Amor” is the long overdue biographical documentary of Walter Mercado. Mercado was an extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend that charmed the world with his televised horoscopes, and theatricality. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter was a celebrated daily part of the Latinx culture, who at his peak reached over 120 million viewers. Walter enthralled much of the world with sequined capes, opulent jewelry and pressing horoscopes that shared a message of love and hope to his devoted viewers — until one day he mysteriously disappeared.
”Mucho Mucho Amor” is so much less about the way Mercado defied all kinds of pigeonholes, and centers a lot more on his message. Directors Cristina Costantini (of the grossly overlooked “Science Fair”), and Kareem Tabsch re-connect with Mercado after he suddenly disappeared from the worldwide spotlight, and struggle to understand why he just receded in to obscurity in to his massive home. Mercado is an individual who prides himself in his message of love, peace, and faith, and while many will go in to “Mucho Mucho Amor” expecting a con man, the story of Mercado is surprisingly optimistic and inspirational.
There isn’t a lot of reasoning for why Mercado is who he is, and he doesn’t ever try to rationalize or explain why he was such a unique presence in a world that demonized and stigmatized ideas like androgyny, gender non-conformity, and homosexuality. There’s also interesting analyses in to how he broke language and cultural barriers, eventually appealing to more mainstream fare. For better or for worse, Mercado had an allure that turned him in to a spiritual guru, and his success inevitably attracted people that claimed to be his friends but sought only to make money from him and sour his message.
Whether you think of him as naïve or just a charlatan putting on a good show, Walter Mercado was a fascinating presence and managed to tap in to the need for inspiration and hope that so many in the latinx community craved during hard times. Directors Cristina Costantini, and Kareem Tabsch have nothing but reverence for the man as they spend so much time reveling in his successes, even ending the documentary on a high note as he meets personally with another famed Puerto Rican performer Lin Manuel Miranda. “Mucho Mucho Amor” is a must see for fans of the man’s work. Even if you’ve never heard of Walter Mercado, it’s still a wonderful exploration of how hope, and inspiration, and love can destroy so many barriers and unite.
Releasing Globally, and Streaming Exclusively on Netflix, July 8th.