There are two figures on Spanish television that defined my childhood: Don Francisco and Walter Mercado. While Sábador Gigante continued long into my adulthood, Walter y las Estrellas didn’t. Even when I stopped seeing him on TV, Walter Mercado and his sign off “Mucho mucho amor” was common with my friends and family. Walter was a staple in nearly every Latinx home and for every single day for decades even non-Latinx homes as well.
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, the Netflix Original documentary from documentarians Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, dives into Walter’s life and explains the sad reason why he was forced to step back from the spotlight. If you’re unfamiliar with Walter, he was an extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend who charmed the world with his televised horoscopes. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, he would empower viewers with hope and mucho mucho amor.
The documentary begins by welcoming viewers into Walter’s home and taking us through his childhood. It’s here where we learn that Walter was regarded as a healer since childhood, which put him down the path to be in the spotlight, spreading love and light whether it was through stage plays, dance, telenovelas, or, finally, his television series. Walter enthralled much of the world with sequined capes, opulent jewelry, and horoscopes that shared a message of love and hope to his devoted viewers. But all of that ended when he disappeared from the public eye and had to fight his former manager for his own identity.
Over a decade later, Costantini and Tabsch and producer Alex Fumero received unprecedented access to Walter during his post-fame seclusion and, in doing so, brought a documentary that not only tells his story but showcases his beautiful and kind presence that reaches through the screen. In Mucho Mucho Amor, they capture Walter’s final two years, when the pioneering icon grappled with aging and his legacy, as he prepared for one last star-studded spectacle.
The reason that Mucho Mucho Amor hits all my emotional chords is that we get to see and hear Walter one more time. Beyond that, we get to see the people who love him speak on his legacy and his love. This extends into those who saw themselves in Walter. Despite never being open about his sexual identity, many saw themselves in his self-described androgyny. While some may see Walter’s silence as buying into the toxic machismo culture, his unapologetic presence was the opposite of that.
Mucho Mucho Amor does an amazing job of profiling a man who was embraced and loved and yet othered by the very culture he stands as an icon in. It would have been easy for the directors to provide us the brightness of Walter’s life only, but instead, they present us the dark spots. We get to see how others didn’t always honor him; while some used satire with respect, others used the homophobia that still runs through Latinx communities to ridicule Walter. But the strength in this presentation is that Walter never let it dull his shine.
Additionally, we’re presented the details of how Walter’s trusting nature led him to be taken advantage of, signing away the rights to his identity, his work, and his face. It gives fans of Walter reasons for his seclusion and gives answers through interviews with family and the other parties involved.
But it’s the last act of Mucho Mucho Amor that packs the most emotional punch. In it, we get to see Walter’s final public appearance, how his fans greeted him, and the love they felt for him, his legacy, and everything else. Watching Walter’s face light up with pride and love was beautiful. But more so, it was emotional to see how deeply ingrained his identity and story is to who Latinx are as a community and how he stays in our hearts decades after his shows, especially knowing that he passed not that long after the event.
Overall, Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado presents Walter Mercado’s story with reverence, truth, and, above all else, love. There are really no words to describe the way I felt watching this documentary, but the closest I can get is with Walter’s final line in the documentary: “He used to be a star, but now Walter is a constellation.”
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Mucho Mucho Amor
Overall,Â Mucho Mucho Amor:Â The Legend of Walter Mercado presents Walter Mercado’s story with reverence, truth, and, above all else, love. There are really no words to describe the way I felt watching this documentary, but the closest I can get is with Walter’s final line in the documentary: “He used to be a star, but now Walter is a constellation.”