walter mercardo cultural influence
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Walter Mercado’s Cultural Significance to the Latinx Community Will Live on Forever

walter mercardo cultural influence

Walter Mercado, our beloved icon, friend, confidant, and member of our family, died on Saturday. The Puerto Rican astrologer sadly passed due to kidney failure. He was in his late ’80s.

According to the Associated Press, spokeswoman Sofía Luquis at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, confirmed that he died there late Saturday. “He had been living in the suburb of Cupey and had spent several days in the hospital before his death,” the AP reports.

It’s very fitting, however, that Walter Mercado died during the biggest Latinx holiday — Day of the Dead— which is celebrated all over the world.  The flamboyant astrologer always knew how to make an entrance. And his exit was just as grand.

Trying to explain Walter Mercado’s cultural significance to non-Latinxs is challenging in many respects because reducing Mercardo to his profession as just an astrologer would be dishonorable to his legacy. He simply meant so much more to so many. Here’s why Walter Mercado’s mark in Latinx history will be remembered forever.

Walter Mercado was part of the family.

Walter Mercado was practically a family staple. Latina moms and abuelitas would drop whatever they were doing and hear Mercardo’s 5-minute astrology segment. No one would dare to speak or blink during his segment because Mercado’s words of wisdom were highly respected in Latino households. Artist M.Tony Peralta tweeted, “My mother would tell us to be quiet when Walter came on to hear not only her but all of our horoscopes. His contribution to our culture will never be forgotten. CON MUCHO, MUCHO AMOR!”

Walter Mercado was the anthesis of machismo.

https://twitter.com/blvckarchives/status/1191066863569997824

One of the most notable stereotypes that bear some truth is that Latin men are insensitive and macho. They show no weakness and put up a macho front all the time. Walter Mercado, however, was the anthesis of machismo.  Yes, he was flamboyant but that didn’t mean he had to conform to gender norms, sexuality or play into stereotypes.

“I’m so into who I am, and I do [what] feels right for me,” Mercado said in an interview with Remezcla just three months ago. “I’m so connected to people and to the divine for that. That I look feminine with a cape? Everyone knows we have two energies – yin and yang – and I know how to balance them. If I have to be a warrior, then I’ll be that. If I have to be soft and subtle, I can be that, too.”

When it came to his sexuality, Mercardo was never one to bow down to anyone’s request. “The people want to know is Walter straight, homosexual, metrosexual, bisexual, I don’t care,” Mercado said, according to the New York Times, “Here I am, I am who I am, that’s it.”

Walter Mercado was a fashion icon.

Mercado very much stood out with his over-the-top fashion sense. His style was a mix between Liberace, Elton John, and Juan Gabriel. From his hair, his mannerisms, and yes, his capes — Walter Mercado showed the world that everyone had a right to be their own person. Everyone could shine however they wanted to. The astrologer transformed into an icon because his style was his gateway and that allowed his message of love and kindness to burn brighter. From sequence to poofy hair, his uniqueness will never be replicated.

Walter Mercado was a intergenerational guide.

There isn’t much that brings older Latinx generations and younger ones together. There’s the love of Latin food and the traditional customs, but when it comes down to it: we ultimately speak different languages. But there aren’t that many people in Latinx pop culture that unified all generations of Latinx like Walter Mercado did.

We have people like Juan Gabriel and Jorge Ramos that are nostalgic figures that were in the limelight all of our lives, and we knew them because our elders respected them, and that meant we did too. Walter Mercado was just as important as the most prominent singer in Latin music and the most critical reporter on television. He served as a guide between generations, a task that not many people will ever own.

Walter Mercado spread the message of love.

Every single time Walter Mercado’s astrology segment was done, he would sign off by saying, “Pero sobre todo, mucho, mucho, mucho amor.” It was like a blessing from a higher being. He showed compassion to others and told us to do the same.

One Twitter user wrote, “Rest in power Walter Mercado. He made astrology true entertainment, but even more importantly he always had a message of love and harmony with others. To me, he was more of a positive influence than the majority of the hate-mongering preachers and religions.” He led by example, and that meant everything.

Walter Mercado’s legacy will live on forever.

This summer, Walter Mercado celebrated his career and legacy with an exhibit Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado at The HistoryMiami Museum that featured his “costumes, mementos, and ephemera, on display for the first time ever.”

It’s almost as if he knew this year would be his last because, on the opening of that exhibit, Mercardo entered the show like a queen. The entrance is very reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s grand entrance on her bed at her last exhibition before her death. This magnificent entrance would be his last. 

Walter Mercado was our spiritual guru and giver of hope.

Walter Mercado was beloved for his message of love, inspired by his uniqueness, but above all his fame of knowing what was in store for us gave us the daily hope we desperately needed.

A person on social media tweeted, “Rest In Peace Walter Mercado! We had to watch his predictions (and outfits) every night with grandma! Truly an icon who introduced astrology and gave families hope will be missed!”

That’s the beauty of Mercado. He wasn’t merely an astrologer. He was a messenger of hope.

“Whether you believe in astrology or not, whether you believe what he said or not, the core of his message is peace and love, and he lived his life that way,” Kareem Tabsch said to the New York Times. Tabsch is directing a documentary on Mercado.

It’s saddening to think we will never again get those daily moments with Mercado, but beautiful to remember that he is resting in the stars now forever.

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