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What This Miami Filmmaker Learned From Late Astrologer Walter Mercado

Pedro Portal
Miami Herald
Walter Mercado died in November but he left his predictions for 2020 ready for publication.

The late astrologer Walter Mercado eased many of us into the New Year. His annual predictions were typically messages of hope and, of course, mucho, mucho amor.

The year 2020 is the first New Year’s since his passing. El Nuevo Herald received his horoscopes and predictions in advance.

His nieces have said they'll continue his legacy. Betty Benet Mercado, an astrologer, who's helped her uncle write the daily horoscopes since the 1980s, said she sat in bed next to him up to his final days to write the 2020 predictions.

"It's gonna be a very tough year for everybody but it's gonna be a year that will teach us, that will open our eyes," she told WLRN.

Walter Mercado wrote that the upcoming year will be “strong, emotional and impactful.” He mentions climate change, a brighter future for his home island of Puerto Rico and even the future of reggaeton music — Daddy Yankee will apparently do very well.

Kareem Tabsch, co-founder of O Cinema in Miami Beach and Wynwood, co-directed with Cristina Costantini an upcoming documentary about Mercado. The film, "Mucho Mucho Amor," is set to premiere at Sundance in January.

WLRN’s Alexander Gonzalez spoke with Tabsch, who was in Los Angeles at the time wrapping up production on the film.

KAREEM TABSCH: Regardless of how seriously you believed everything he said, it was a welcome tradition that you knew that before the end of the year, Walter is going to impart some words of wisdom to help you bring in a new year with love, with joy, with peace and harmony. And they were not just predictions. There were also suggestions on other things to do to welcome in the New Year with with more fortune and luck.

There was taking a special bath, running around the block, wearing a special color. And you needed to wear red before midnight on New Year's Eve because that was going to be the color for passion and love. And you needed lots of love in your life.

ALEXANDER GONZALEZ: What kind of impact did these predictions have on you personally? Did you ever buy the new piece of clothing or take the bath?

I was a cafeteria believer in things, generally. So I remember wearing a shirt a few years ago. And in fact, even last year, Walter himself gave me a couple of suggestions of what to do to make the coming year better. One was buying a particular item that I needed to keep in my bedroom. I did that. And the other one … I can’t really get into what they were. I did two of them and I think 2019 has been a very successful year for me. Whether that was because Walter was right or wrong — or whether it was the luck of the stars — I couldn't tell you. But it was a great insurance policy.

What did you learn about him beyond all the horoscopes and the stunning capes that he wore?

To have somebody who's such a staple of your daily life in that in that box in the living room that we all gathered around, come to life and realize that in many ways he was that same person over the top and fun, but that behind all of that, there is such such depth. And if you think about the way he came on television, starting from 50 years ago, he blended gender expressions — the masculine with the feminine on Latino television, which is very macho-centric. As much as 20 years ago, you heard him talk about climate and the need to take care of the earth.

Mercado was from Puerto Rico and he was buried there when he died in November. You attended the funeral and I saw a photo of you helping carry his coffin. You were actually one of the pallbearers. What did that mean to you and the relationship that you formed in the course of making the film?

Being a pallbearer at his funeral was something that was unexpected. It was very emotional, as you can imagine. And I think we became extended family for sure and became very close in a short period of time. We were privy to a lot that was going on in his life. We got to know the Walter that lived outside of that television screen and we shared his immense highs lows. We shared when his health was in decline and he was battling the challenges of aging. We shared his final moment when he gave his last goodbye.