Americas

Famed astrologer Walter Mercado is buried in Puerto Rico

“Any change will be productive. … This is the best moment to make a positive impression on everyone. Your lucky numbers are: 11, 1, 33.”

Walter Mercado, the famed astrologer and media personality, was buried Friday in his native Puerto Rico.

Always industrious, the fortune-teller had prewritten daily horoscopes for weeks to come, so it was difficult not to read Friday’s outlook for Pisces, his birth sign, as an obituary of sorts: “You will seek and pursue what’s beneficial to you.”

Mercado, 87, died Nov. 2 due to renal failure. Despite his advanced age, his family and friends described the end as abrupt and said that he himself hadn’t been planning for the “graduation,” as they called it.

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Born in Ponce, on the southern tip of the island, Mercado soared in the golden age of television. His flair for fashion and campy charisma made him a household name across much of Latin America.

Despite his widespread fame, his memorial and funeral were somber affairs, devoid of the crush of crowds many were expecting.

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Willie Acosta, longtime personal assistant of astrologer Walter Mercado, places some flowers and kisses Mercado’s casket during the burial ceremony in Cupey in Puerto Rico on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com

Family members and the press often outnumbered the well-wishers during much of the three days of public ceremonies.

Doris Matos, 85, was standing apart from the crowd fanning herself. She said that she’d grown up watching Mercado and never missed one of his television appearances.

She was surprised that there were so few people waiting to see his final performance and speculated that most of Mercado’s hard-core followers were simply too old to make it to the commemoration. In addition, all the memorial and funeral services took place on weekdays, so those with jobs couldn’t make it.

“What’s important is that we’re here,” she said.

As a three-piece band played somber Puerto Rican classics, more than a dozen nieces and nephews and Mercado’s longtime personal assistant, Willie Acosta, gathered around his casket.

Jeshua Rivera Mercado, one of the nephews, described how his uncle — who lived alone with his dog, Runo — was the spiritual axis of the family.

“He convinced us that he was going to be eternal,” he said, choking back tears, “and he was right.”

During part of the commemoration, Mercedes Pereira, a local personality who attends high-profile events dressed in her signature jumpsuit of the Puerto Rican flag, draped a flag and straw hat on Mercado’s casket.

Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez had declared a “national day of mourning” starting Thursday and running through Mercado’s funeral.

“You will be more practical when it comes to investing your money,” Mercado’s horoscope for Pisces read on Friday, “and you will avoid the temptation of owning luxurious items that you don’t need.”

Jim Wyss covers Latin America for the Miami Herald and was part of the team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for its work on the “Panama Papers.” He and his Herald colleagues were also named Pulitzer finalists in 2019 for the series “Dirty Gold, Clean Cash.” He joined the Herald in 2005.
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