BY JOHN CARTER JR
It’s Hispanic heritage month and with it comes reviews featuring Hispanic talent at the forefront. In this review we take a look at the life of the Lovely Walter Mercado, the star of the 2020 Netflix Documentary Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado Directed by Cristina Costantini and Kareen Tabsch. The documentary comprises a series of interviews with people closely involved in the life of Mercado – Latino celebrities including Eugenio Derbez, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Walter Mercado himself.
The film not only examines the history of Mercado’s early years growing up in Puerto Rico but also examines his start in the theater and on television, his fallout with his former manager Guillermo Bakula, speculation concerning his sexuality, and more. Let’s touch upon some of the topics discussed in the film.
According to Mercado ever since he was young he was different from the other boys,
“When I saw other boys, I know that I have another way of life,” he said in the film.
While his brother would go work with his father in the sugarcane fields, Mercado would stay at home with his mother playing the piano and reading books. He thought everything about him was different and to that his mother said:
“If you’re different, go on being different. Don’t worry about that. To be different is a gift. To be ordinary is common,” she said in the film.
Mercado took that advice and channeled it into not only his work but into his way of life. Eventually, in his life journey, Mercado was doing a play called “Tríptico Del Amor, Del Dolor, Y De la Muerte” in Puerto Rico. Elin Ortiz, who had a show on Telemundo, invited Walter Mercado to do a promo for the play. According to Willie Acosta (Mercado’s longtime assistant) Elin Ortiz, presumably after Mercado had arrived on set, told Mercado:
“No, We’ll do the promo later, but Walter let’s talk about astrology, you’re always reading the palm of everybody around here and you’re always asking ‘what’s your sign?’ And What’s your sign? And What’s your sign? Let’s talk about astrology,’” Acosta said in the film.
He ended up doing a 15-minute segment generally talking about astrology the day he was supposed to do the promo. According to Acosta the general manager of Telemundo came down and said:
“He Has to do that show again tomorrow because people are calling,” he said.
Mercado goes on to say that he was told that the Telephone lines are full, so he needed to be in tomorrow, here, doing the same show today.
“I want Walter Mercado every day, 15 minutes a day in this show and I want you with the same costume tomorrow. I want Walter in capes,” Mercado said.
After three months they asked for one-hour shows of Walter Mercado’s astrology called “ Walter Las estrellas y usted”
From that moment on Mercado’s fame grew, becoming a household name across Latin America as well as the world. Walter become the voice to turn to either on radio or television for millions of people especially the Latino and Hispanic communities. He was a Fred Rogers-like icon to Latinos spreading a message of Peace and Love. However, that fame did come with its fair share of controversy. The criticism hurled at the psychic network, Mercado’s relationship with Guillermo Bakula, and the consistent prejudice, homophobic and otherwise, often found rampant in machismo Latino culture affected Mercado’s career and personal life.
Mercado dealt with many critics and impersonators throughout his career, especially concerning his identity and the way he presented himself. The conundrum of being unable to reveal or be open about your identity in a culture that loves you but also rejects things about you. Willie Acosta states in the film:
“When they see Walter and make fun of him it’s because they wish they could be like Walter. Yes.”
LGBTQ Karlo Karlo says the Latino community was and still is homophobic, but to him, Mercado has always been someone that gave him hope and was a superhero to him. Mercado was breaking rules and barriers for people like him amongst people who were also like him in different ways. Being a powerful light for many LGBT people (as seen in the film) in the Latino community. Acosta tells the audience that Walter has been told “That’s a… (Insert homphobic slur)” but in response to that he always takes an “I don’t care pill.”
The film goes on to show Mercado at his last major public appearance at the History Miami Museum for an exhibition called “Mucho Mucho Amor: 50 years of Walter Mercado”. He has wonderful interactions with his fans which he calls “my people” and as the film begins to discuss what will become of the legend of Walter Mercado. The darling diva, Walter, himself says “Walter Mercado is a force of nature, without beginnings and endings. He used to be a star but now Walter is a constellation”. Mercado has since passed away in San Juan surrounded by friends and family.
Walter Mercado is and will always be a legend, and this documentary conveys exactly why. His message that love is the most important and powerful thing in this world influenced and affected the lives of millions of hearts not simply Latinos. The documentary goes to great lengths to convey the struggles he endured in a way that is more intimate than we have ever had with the television personality. It gives viewers a clear image of who Walter Mercado truly was, a person who truly loved and wanted others to as well. Although Walter has still passed his message and his essence remains in our hearts as a more than a latino icon. Walter Mercado is a legend and In the words of the legend himself:
“Que dios los bendiga a todos hoy, mañana y siempre . Y que reciban de mi siempre paz, mucha paz. Pero sobre todo mucho, mucho, mucho que? Amor” – Walter Mercado
For the full film check it out on Netflix, I give Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado a 10/10 for the delicious fashions, the intimate portrait of the life of Walter Mercado, and Walter Mercado himself.