'Mucho Mucho Amor' profiles androgynous astrologer Walter Mercado who refused to be labeled: 'I have sex with life'
The documentary not only cast a light on why Mercado disappeared at the peak of his career but also talks about his contribution in the LGBTQ community at the time when his God-fearing audience were not open to
Walter Mercado, the legendary astrologer who gained worldwide fame through his daily horoscope segment on Spanish-language TV, based out of South Florida, was more than just show business. He was the larger-than-life androgynous personality who dared to break the rules of sexuality and gender in the '70s and '80s Latin community. The Netflix documentary 'Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado' which premieres on July 8, does not only cast a light on why Mercado disappeared at the peak of his career but also talks about his contribution in the LGBTQ community at the time when his God-fearing audience were not open to accepting someone who looked like both a man and woman and refused to be labeled as anything when it came to his sexuality.
"The Latino community was quite homophobic I mean especially in the 70s, 80s, I mean still nowadays but back then it was like much stronger. The perception of masculinity was so square. Growing up as a queer boy and watching Walter Mercado gave me hope. I saw Walter and I was like ok, I am not that different. Here you have a man on television breaking all of these rules," Karlo Karlo, an LGBTQ activist, says in the documentary.
Mercado was different than anything that people had seen at the time. He was not openly gay and yet wore flashy capes and tap-danced on stage while delivering the daily horoscopes on the television. Wherever he went, he was accompanied by his assistant, Willie Acosta, who had been with him for years till Mercado took his last breath in November 2019. They were so close that they even stayed in the same hotel room when traveling together. As a result, people always assumed that Willie might have been Mercado's romantic partner.
"He has a very feminine energy," Acosta said. "He's an androgyne. He looks like a woman. Sometimes, he looks like a man." He added that he did not care when people called Mercado 'queer' or 'fa***t.' He said that Walter always took an "I don't care" pill and he "started drinking that pill". Acosta also added that people thought he was Mercado's lover when all he had with him was a "family relation." "I never touched Walter with a finger. Never in my life," he said.
Even in the misogynistic, catholic landscape of the time, Mercado thrived. When people branded him as gay or bisexual or sexual, Mercado never confirmed or denied anything. When he was asked by one of his guests on his show if he was "heterosexual", Mercado simply replied, "Let me tell you something, I respect sex as something sacred. For me sex is spiritual. I am married to my public, to my people."
But Ivonne Benet, one of Mercado's nieces said her uncle was not as casual about the topic of sexuality as he made people think. "Walter is very protective about opening up including his family. I have seen journalists trying to talk about his sexuality, his partners, his love affairs, and they are topics that he just won't touch," she said.
Even in the documentary, when Mercado was asked why he never talked about his sexuality or his gender identity, he found a clever way to answer without really answering the questions. "Because I have sexuality (sic) with the wind, with the flowers, and the garden, with all the beautiful display of nature. I don't need a person, especially to make me happy, to have an orgasmic experience. No. I have sex with life. I have sex with everything," he said.
The interviewer then flipped the question and asked Mercado if he was defining himself as a virgin. "The only one in town," Mercado said with a chuckle.
The real reason Mercado might not have wanted to touch on the subject of sexuality might be because he was afraid of being out of a job. "If Walter Mercado would have come out in the 60s, 70s, 80s, I think it would have hurt his career. Puerto Ricans say often, 'What you can see, you don't ask about.' And I know visibility is very important. But not coming out stopped perhaps the homophobia from running wild. There are so many societal laws that he broke, it goes beyond coming out," Karlo said.
Karlo added: "You use a cape because you are a superhero. And I see Walter as a superhero."