Astrologist Walter Mercado may have departed Earth for a new adventure in the cosmos, but his memory will last indefinitely thanks to the Netflix’s Mucho Mucho Amor, premiering July 8.
In EW’s exclusive trailer debut for the documentary, Mercado is remembered by filmmakers Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch as the glue that binds immigrants of every generation from all over Latin America. And for curious observers learning about him for the first time, celebrity superfans like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Derbez explain why Mercado was and forever will be a special human being who wanted to live infinitely to share his gift of love with mankind.
“Getting to know Walter Mercado while working on Mucho Mucho Amor was one of the greatest privileges of our lives,” Costantini tells EW. “We grew up watching him, like every other Latino in the United States so when we first met him, there’s no doubt we were starstruck. By the end of production, we had worked with him on this for two years and we became part of his family. When he died at the end of 2019, Kareem and [producer] Alex [Fumero] were pallbearers at his funeral. I want the world to know he was really that full of love and that he was such a sweetheart, exactly as you’d imagine.”
Mercado was unapologetically sexually ambiguous, which brought about many questions during his lifetime about whether or not he was gay. He always took the questions and innuendo in stride though responding with a joke that would get him off the hook with most. But he meant a lot to gay Latinos during an era where they feared coming out much more than today, just merely for existing.
“I’m a queer kid from Miami and the first time I ever saw Walter on television, it was the first time I ever encountered another person who was queer,” Tabsch recalls. “I had a simpatico. Seeing him on TV I remember thinking, ‘Huh, there’s something in you that’s like something in me. I see a reflection of me in you, even if I’d never be nearly as fabulous.’ But there was this otherness that I recognized. I felt, ‘If my family loves you just as you are then maybe they could love me as I am too.’ It was very impactful seeing him even though he never publicly discussed his sexuality. Being a part of the younger generation where sexuality is a big part of who we are and we embrace that more easily, we felt it was important to discuss the topic. Walter, who would really hate for me to say he was 88 when he died, was from another generation where sex just wasn’t a topic you discussed openly — it wasn’t even okay for straight people to do so! And although he never confirmed anything publicly, he was very much a pioneer and a queer icon because he challenged the notions of sexuality he challenged the notions of gender of what a man should look like and what a man should do.”
For fans who clamored in front of the TV to find out their horoscope every night alongside excited family members, there’s still a lot of details about Mercado’s left to discover in Mucho Mucho Amor. Not only did he meet with American presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, but he found fans with major mainstream talent including Howard Stern, Anderson Cooper, and Kelly Ripa.
What the film does exceptionally well is humanizing a man who others admired as a magical being, or even a superhero. Being called a superhero is actually the perfect comparison for a person who enjoyed wearing fabulous capes as much as Mercado did. And Mucho Mucho Amor, well, it’s his origin story.
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“Walter’s definitely a superhero, I mean, have you seen all his capes?” asks Costantini while laughing. “He’s also very magical. In this documentary, we really wanted to show the man behind the cape. What did it look like for him to be someone that fabulous on the day-to-day? And you know what? His day-to-day was very fabulous! He had breakfast in a golden robe. Living his daily life doing the things most of us did he still did it his own way.”
Tabsch adds, “Part of taking him off that pedestal by peeling off the layers of this person we grew to love and finding that normal person underneath. That really was the goal for us to underscore that even your heroes eat and poop like the rest of us. Your heroes have a human side to them that’s important to realize because it’s a reminder that no one is infallible, and Walter certainly wasn’t. Most importantly, is coming to the realization that on a human level, everybody has the possibility of being magical. We all have the power to do things that can make a huge impact in people’s lives. You don’t have to be from outer space to have this power, you can be from San Juan, Puerto Rico like Walter and still connect to people and make them feel so special when you lead with love. That was his biggest superpower and what was behind us telling his story.”