Mr. Mercado was born in Ponce, one of Puerto Rico’s largest cities. He worked briefly for TV stations based in the U.S. territory before moving to South Florida. There, he gained fame for his daily horoscope segment on Spanish-language television, delivered in dramatic fashion with an exaggerated trilling of the “r” sound.
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He favored long and colorful brocades and huge gemstone rings, which he flashed while pointing to viewers. His catch phrase to his audience: “Above all, lots and lots of love.”
Mr. Mercado never publicly stated his sexuality, but he was an icon in the gay community as someone who challenged the conservative television culture in Latin America. “He endows the drag queen with papal authority,” Diana Taylor, a New York University professor of performance studies and Spanish, wrote in a 2003 critique.
Alex Fumero, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who has spent two years working on a documentary about Mr. Mercado, said the astrologer was an unlikely icon in the Latino community.
“This is a culture that’s been dominated by machismo and homophobia for a very long time. For someone who so brazenly played with gender and sexuality and always remained something of a mystery . . . he was really brave,” Fumero said in a phone interview.
However, Mr. Mercado also faced some legal battles.
In 1998, he got in trouble for endorsing alleged health and beauty products and was named in a class-action lawsuit that accused him of misleading people into buying beads with supposed special powers. The president of the jewelry company, Unique Gems International, was later sentenced to 14 years in prison for defrauding 16,000 people in a $90 million scam.
In October 2010, Mr. Mercado announced he was changing his name to Shanti Ananda. That same year, he stopped shooting his segment for Univision, the Spanish-language TV channel. Months later, he began to deliver daily horoscopes through El Nuevo Herald newspaper in Miami.
Mr. Mercado was hospitalized in December 2011 in Puerto Rico following a cold that turned into pneumonia. His health condition worsened, and he was transferred to a hospital in Ohio. It was later revealed that he had suffered a heart attack.
In 2014, he launched the website Passion Latinos, offering horoscopes, online dating and an array of products called Captivating — including fragrances, candles, soaps and body lotions aimed at promoting prosperity, sex, health, peace and love.
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