When news broke that Walter Mercado passed away on Saturday, November 2, Latines across generations were in mourning. For decades, the Puerto Rican astrologer spiritually advised our community with his lively yet warmhearted horoscopes. But beyond sending his messages from the stars, Mercado also influenced us by complicating masculinity with his flamboyant sense of style, teaching even our most religious elders lessons about acceptance as well as gender fluidity and expression and offering early representation to young queers of a joyous, loving unapologetic life outside dichotomous gender norms. At 87, Mercado was an icon, a man with an impact so wide and deep that it will undoubtedly outlive his physical time on earth.
We reached out to artists, astrologers, healers, writers, activists and everyday Latines to learn how the late Mercado influenced their own lives, professions and outlooks as well as Latine culture and experiences overall. From self-love and cosmological teachings to childhood Spanish lessons and memories tied to loved ones who have passed on, these are the many ways the community will remember and carry Mercado’s light.
"A welcome respite from the images of masculinity I was told to emulate."
It’s hard to summarize the impact Walter Mercado had on me and so many other young, queer Puerto Ricans. I was bad at sports (particularly baseball) early on, which felt like such a disappointment to my parents. I was a really expressive child drawn to performance and the arts, which usually prompted my dad to tell me to act more like a “macho” in public. But Walter was a welcome respite from the images of masculinity I was told to emulate. Here was this astrologer with giant capes, glittering broaches and broad hand gestures — a man who embraced the campiness, magic and mystery that existed all around us. He never identified as a queer person, but he seemed to reject the machismo that I felt constrained my own magic. And my family loved him! He was a staple in our home every week. No one could speak while Walter was on — there was a reverence for his craft, for his performance, in my home that I felt gave me permission to be a little more me. Perhaps by accident, this dancer-turned-telenovela-star-turned-astrologer became my patron saint — and a source of joy for so many other young Latinx weirdos who looked at him and saw infinite possibilities outside what we’d been told was the norm.
– Gabe Gonzalez, Journalist
"He was all colors."
As a young pisces, I spent hours looking for inner and spiritual guidance. Walter Mercado was definitely one of my go-to people who I felt really knew and understood me. I remember being 14 years old and reading his horoscopes and predictions for the new year, which led me to develop an interest in astrology. Later in my life, astrology found me and I had the opportunity to study it professionally in Colombia. That is when I understood Walter’s legacy. He had to create a character in order to bring light to astrology in a world that understood little about it. He knew the science behind astrology. He was genius in knowing what to do to really make a stand in order to break all standards in Puerto Rico, Latin America and the U.S. He was all colors, non-binary, gave legit astrological predictions, was respectful, inserted love into all of his work and truly cared for people. Thanks to Walter, a lot of us never felt alone.
I had the opportunity to get to know Walter while collaborating on a project a couple of years ago. He was so loving and validating. We shared our views on astrology and talked about our spiritual gurus, including Carl Jung, one of my favorite psychology theorists. And while talking about the unconscious and how astrology had so much to say about connections, we found out that we both shared the same birthday, which is March 9. Thanks to Walter, now young astrologers like myself have the opportunity to practice astrology as a profession. There is still a long way to go to further his legacy and continue to educate the masses about the value of astrology as a human science.
– Dr. Veroshk Williams, Puerto Rican astrologer and psychologist
"Accepted us before many of us knew how to accept ourselves."
Walter Mercado gave me a look into a spiritual world that helps me understand myself and those around me with compassion more than any organized religion ever offered me. Walter Mercado broke many barriers, but, for me, a Mexican-Salvadoran, his most important one was being Puerto Rican at the top of his game in a U.S. Latinx media industry that heavily favored and catered to the Mexican community. Astrology has been gaining popularity among millennials, especially those who belong to the queer community, but for many queer Latinxs, our relationship with these two intersected worlds began with him. The beauty of Walter Mercado for queer Latinxs like me is that I experienced his queer, non-binary astrological magic alongside problematic Catholic matriarchs whom we were too afraid to come out to. This pisces Puerto Rican angel accepted us before many of us knew how to accept ourselves. QDEP, Walter Mercado, y con mucho mucho mucho amor.
– Delma Catalina Limones, Communications Professional and Writer
"A loving contribution and source of light."
Walter Mercado was not just a household name, or an icon, his horoscopes were considered gospel. My Dad, a Capricorn who wasn’t the biggest on astrology, even respected the moment of silence taken when Walter came on the TV. I spent a lot of time going to Miami in high school to visit my abuelita, especially while she was undergoing treatment for cancer. These times were hard but also so special to me. We would watch Laura, novelas and more for hours at a time. When Walter Mercado came on, though, it was almost its own ritual: We would listen to the horoscopes, and then she would provide me with further insight about mine. We both admired Walter’s wardrobe, and I personally lived for the fact that Walter always had a face that was beat by the cosmos themselves.
I felt seen for a number of reasons by Walter: a practitioner who had created their own lane, a Bori at that; one who embodied the giving kind heart of Boricua culture (con mucho mucho mucho amor!); one who didn’t conform to what was deemed “masculine” or “feminine” but created their own spectrum of existence in regards to that. As someone who has always operated on a spectrum when it comes to sexuality and gender expression, seeing someone who was spiritual do the damn thing unapologetically inspired me in ways I will never be able to thank Walter enough for. Those moments with my abuelita will always be cherished, and anytime I heard Walter Mercado, I was taken right back there.
Walter Mercado truly was a loving contribution and source of light in the lives of all reached. Whether with his on-point horoscopes or the memories we created around them, we’ve gained an ancestor who is a shining light. The transition of death will not change that — no matter how broken our hearts are by the loss at this time. Thank you for everything, Walter Mercado.
-Emilia Ortiz, Bruja, Healer and Mental Health Advocate
"A rainbow amid the gray."
We remember how confused yet intrigued we were when, as kids, Walter Mercado would come on Channel 47 to translate what the stars communicated to him. As Dominicans, his colorful capes and feminine demeanor were attributes we were not accustomed to seeing on someone perceived to be a man. Regardless of the socialized confusion, our hearts grew fonder of this charismatic person who seemed to have a way with words. Walter Mercado was like a rainbow amid the gray of the 6 o’clock news. His segments, though short, always left us with a sense that “everything is gonna be all right.” Walter Mercado proved to us that being yourself, being a bruja, was magical. So in learning of his passing, the brujas were a bit shocked but mostly at peace. We know that a supernova star now sits among the constellations in the sky. Gracias, Walter Mercado. Con mucho mucho amor y que brille para el la luz eterna.
– Griselda and Miguelina, Brujas of Brooklyn
"It was OK to live authentically and with flare."
As a young kid, I would see Walter Mercado on TV wearing glittery jackets or colorful gowns, big rings and a soft beat. Before I could name my queerness and embody a trans femme identity, Walter Mercado showed me that it was OK to live authentically and with flare. He inspired us to look to the stars for answers, introducing astrology to so many of us baby queers. For a whole generation of Latinxs, despite all the things we may have been going through, his message of living in abundant love allowed us to access peace in that moment.
– Aldo Gallardo, Trans Activist
"He was also an icon."
“Shhh, mi horoscopo,” is what my mother would say when Walter Mercado would finally show up on the TV screen once Primer Impacto was over. I knew not to utter a word and risk my mom missing her horoscope. Growing up, Walter Mercado’s spiritual advice and predictions were king and queen in our home. He didn’t just represent the mystical truth straight from the stars; he was also an icon. His very presence pushed social norms and gender nonconformity as he rocked sequins-filled capes, shiny makeup and oozed of flamboyant confidence. I’m grateful for his presence in our home, not just for reinforcing the messages from the stars but also giving me hope there would be space for me to step out of the box and be my own colorful self in even the most non-traditional ways. Tu presencia me ha dado mucho esperanza para el futuro, Walter Mercado, que descanses con las estrellas.
Cindy Y Rodriguez, Journalist, Bruja and Founder of Reclama
"The patron saint of Boricua brujxs."
Walter Mercado was a formative part of my childhood. Afternoons spent on my abuela’s plastic-covered sofa somewhere in East Harlem, sitting through hours of semi-decipherable news and novelas where the words washed over me, Walter was a sharp departure, a magical daily interruption of silk and sparkle with messages from the divine. The moment of focus required when he would finally announce “SA-GI-TARIO!” felt like all of a sudden the world stopped and this magical being was speaking directly to me and I could suddenly understand Spanish. Then I’d look up and realize all the women in my house, who were fluent, were just as affixed. May Walter Mercado join the pantheon of our egun as the patron saint of Boricua brujxs with full pomp and regalia, a spectacular new cape and the never-ending knowledge that because of his spirit and offerings, the world was left better, more open to magic, flamboyant clairvoyance, unabashed fluidity of human expression, reverence for honest direct messages and, above else, of course, mucho mucho amor.
– Chiquita Brujita, Bruja, Performance Artist and Candle Maker
"The people’s astrologer."
The people’s astrologer. One of my clearest memories as a child is growing up during the war in El Salvador with the news on at all times. It was exhausting, but for a few minutes, among the constant chaos, Walter Mercado came on our TVs talking to us about the stars, our signs and our outlook. He always ended it basically saying that regardless of anything to do everything with love. My love for astrology started as a little girl watching him in his non-conforming glory. His unapologetic disregard of expectations taught me more than I realized growing up. Rest in peace, sweet pisces.
– Johanna Toruño, Artist, Unapologetic Street Series
"One of my first metaphysics and cosmology teachers."
“As a baby queer and baby empath, I remember how much comfort I felt during Walter’s segments at home. It was something we didn’t talk about too much but that we watched as part of our evening routine. I remember being drawn to Walter’s passion, tone and body language. Although as a young queer person I didn’t have the language for it, I appreciate how he brought gender nonconformity into our home unapologetically. I looked forward to his outfits, the colors, the backgrounds of the segments and the jewelry he adorned himself with. Walter was one of my first metaphysics and cosmology teachers. He inspired me to look at the stars, to wonder, to know that the world was so vast and that it extended beyond the physical realm. He taught me that everything was connected and that everything was impacted by everything else, a teaching that has expanded so much in my life and that I deeply thank him for.”
– Berenice Dimas, Herbal Educator and Creator of Bruja Tip
"He will never be forgotten."
My earliest memory of Walter Mercado is my mother watching Spanish television and this superhero-looking person appearing on the TV. My mom would quickly hush me to be quiet because her horoscope was about to be read by Walter Mercado. This was a consistent accordance in our home. Mami would make sure to listen to not only her horoscope but that of her four kids and friends.
Walter was more than an astrologer. He was a low-key brujo who had all of our abuelas, mothers, tías, sisters and maybe even your dads and tíos acting like they’re not into astrology but inconspicuously listening to their readings. Because of his iconic status in our community, I dropped a sweater with the words blazing “Walter Mercado is my Spiritual Advisor” as a homage to the mystical figure five years ago.
At a time when astrology seems to be a trend, with apps like Co – Star, The Pattern and the occasional astrology chatter on Twitter, we can’t forget the godfather. For a man to die at the age of 87 and still be culturally relevant speaks to his impact. He will never be forgotten.
– M. Tony Peralta, Contemporary Artist and Designer