Mucho, Mucho Amor invites you into the wonderful world of Walter Mercado— an ageless Puerto-Rican astrologer and life-long advocate of eccentric glamour. The documentary explores Mercado’s origins as a celebrated child healer in rural Puerto Rico and charts his meteoric success from regional telenovelas to worldwide domination as the world’s most beloved astrologer. At the height of his fame, Mercado’s daily astrology shows were broadcast to millions worldwide but things turned sour following a bust up with his trusted manager Bill Bakula. Following a legal battle and failing health, Mercado retreated into seclusion in 2007. Directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch gained inside access to the mysterious astrologer through a series of close friendships with Mercado’s nieces: Ivonne, Betty Benet Mercado and his long-standing assistant Willy Acosta. Along with interviews, the documentary includes archival recordings and contemporary Mercado fans.
Mucho, Mucho Amor intimately depicts the life of an ageing popular culture icon as he revisits his fifty year career and prepares for an exhibition in Miami. Walter’s magnetic personality and joie de vivre are infectious, it’s hard not to watch this documentary and beam with happiness. We are invited into Mercado’s home which is brimming with ornate religious iconography and drawers upon drawers of vitamins and supplements. In a particularly joyful moment, Mercado welcomes us to his extensive cape collection with designs heavy with Swarovski crystals and elaborate hand-embroideries. He explains the importance of beauty within his work, citing his flamboyant ensembles, immaculately styled hair and sculpted facial features as key in making his audience trust in his other-worldly talents.
Throughout his career, Mercado’s sexuality was constantly questioned, with the under-represented Latinx queer community finding strength within his unconventional gender-representation in mainstream media. The directors probe Mercado about his illusive sexuality to which Mercado exclaims, ‘I have sexuality with the wind, with the flowers in the garden, with all the beautiful displays of nature. I don’t need a person especially to make me happy or to have an orgasmic experience. No… I have sex with life…with clothes, with beauty.’ Mercado’s perceived fluidity and New Age spiritualism is perhaps more relatable than ever with the documentary highlighting the star’s reignited fame in his later years. Mercado’s beautiful spirit shines through although, at times, the documentary does feel biased towards Mercado with little room for commentary on the stars mishaps.
Mucho Mucho Amor culminates with his first exhibition, Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado within the History Miami Museum— a display of his life’s work including his dazzling costumes, personal belongings and career spanning ephemera. Watching the astrologer enter the exhibition seated upon a gold throne, sparkling in sequin to rapturous applause and beaming with pride is a full circle moment. During the documentary he reflects on his life and exclaims ‘to be different is a gift’ and what a gift Walter Mercado was to this world.
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado is available to stream on Netflix now
by Casci Ritchie
Casci (she/her) is an independent dress historian specialising in fashion, film and consumer cultures. Her true great loves – film and fashion – began when she watched her first film noir, The Big Sleep, as a teenager and fell in love Bacall and Bogie hook line and sinker. Some of her favourite films include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Beetlejuice, Double Indemnity and Cry Baby. You can find her over on Twitter & her blog www.casciritchie.com.