Walter Mercado is one of those figures so popular and at the same time so familiar because of longtime presence in the media that he’s already part of the Hispanic iconography in the United States and his native Puerto Rico. So much so that many of his followers, who refer to him by his first name alone, don’t take a step in the morning without first reading his predictions.
The long career of the Puerto Rican astrologer will be recognized in an exhibit at the HistoryMiami Museum during August that will feature his photos, personal objects and 12 of the colorful capes that have added his peculiar touch to his shows and presentations.
The title of the show, “Mucho, Mucho Amor, 50 years of Walter Mercado,” comes from one of the astrologer’s famous phrases, which he sprinkles over his daily predictions published in media such as el Nuevo Herald, almost always accompanied by some optimistic commentary or word of encouragement for his followers. “I respect the biblical God, but my God is love. The more love I give, the more love I receive,” Mercado said in an interview last week at his home in Rio Piedras in Puerto Rico.
The exhibit, the first public presentation dedicated to the 87-year-old astrologer by an institution such as the Miami museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian, will run Aug. 2-25.
“It has been a pleasure for me to share my message of peace and love with my followers for more than 50 years, and I am glad that I can now share some of my clothes, jewels and artifacts with all of you for the first time in a museum,” Mercado said in a news release issued by HistoryMiami.
“After my home in Puerto Rico, Miami has been the most important city in my life and my career. It has been a second home, where I lived and worked for many decades, and it has been crucial to my goal of sharing my message with a global audience,” Mercado said. “This moment is a marvelous return home. It fills me with emotion to share it with all of you, and I hope that when you leave the museum you will fell much peace, much love.”
The show marks the 50th anniversary of Mercado’s first television appearance, but it also shows his childhood and includes photos with his brother Henry and his family in the farm in the Ponce area where he grew up.
During the Herald interview, Mercado touched on a range of topics, including his optimistic attitude toward life and the role of astrology.
“As a child I never liked to look down. I didn’t like to see the mud and the ugly things. I liked to look at the stars. I do not want to know the future, I want to enjoy the moment, because tomorrow will not be the same.”
Mercado issued predictions on the United States and Venezuela. “The United States has become polarized. Many people have told me that Trump has elevated America, with the economy and with very positive things. But every time he speaks is a psychological, moral and public disaster, ” said Mercado, indicating that people should reflect before voting.
Venezuela provides serious lessons, he said.
“Venezuela has Capriconio as an ascending sign. Capricorn is like a teacher; what is happening is like a lesson. The people are adorable, but there were many people who, like the oil land, the summit of the world, had a certain pride.”
The photos in the HistoryMiami show include images showing Mercado enjoying one of his passions, dance, including a flamenco show that made the rounds of Puerto Rico, as well as an actor in the theater play “El tríptico de amor, dolor y muerte” with Estrellita Artao.
It was one of his television appearances to promote the play that launched his TV career as an astrologer. The host of the show, the late Elin Ortiz, asked Mercado to speak about his passion for astrology. His comments went over so well that the audience started asking for more. Four months later, Mercado got his own show on Puerto Rican television.
The exhibit also offers a glimpse into his private life, showing him surrounded by his favorite objects in his San Juan home, and as a successful public figure in photos with former President Bill Clinton in 1996 and 1997.
“Many of us grew up with that Puerto Rican icon in our living rooms while we listened to his predictions on television, and now we will share his legacy on the walls of our museum so that everyone can enjoy it,” said Jorge Zamanillo, executive director of HistoryMiami.
Zamanillo, referring to the extraordinary connection that Mercado has with his public, recalled that his parents “invited him into their home every night” through their TV set.
He also noted Mercado’s reach among non-Hispanic audiences, because many people born in places that are not Miami or Puerto Rico know him well because of the original nature of his clothes and the items used to decorate the sets of his TV shows.
Mercado’s famous capes — 12, one for each month of the year, Zamanillo noted — are part of the exhibit. One is particularly special because it represents the Puerto Rican flag and was worn by Mercado during a Puerto Rican Day march in New York and later by Broadway actor, writer and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Filmmaker Alex Fumero, who has been working on a documentary about Mercado for the past 1½ years, said he admired the astrologer’s depth of knowledge about different religions and culture in general.
“Walter is very learned. He knows about everything, has studied all the religions, and can also talk about music and literature,” Fumero said of his in-depth conversations with Mercado, which touched on spiritual issues as well as his biography and his art.
“You can believe in astrology or not, but when you hear him talk you know that it’s not entertainment for him, that he takes this very seriously,” said Fumero, who will be in Miami to film the events prepared by HistoryMiami.
Mercado’s age is closely held. When asked about it, he demurred, of course. He said he’s “between 50 and death. My friends give me 50, and my enemies 98. If I have enemies, I send them blessings.”
Mercado will deliver a special chat Aug. 3 at the museum. Tickets can be purchased at historymiami.org. The museum is at 101 W. Flagler St.
Sarah Moreno: 305-376-2217, @SarahMorenoENH