Walter Mercado, the Puerto Rican TV astrologer whose warmth and flamboyance won him scores of fans across Latin America and the United States for more than 30 years, has died. The Associated Press reports that Mercado was 88.

Mercado died Saturday night at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan from kidney failure, hospital spokeswoman Sofia Luquis told the AP.

For decades, Mercado was a fixture on Spanish-language television where, at the height of his fame, his astrology reports reached an estimated 120 million viewers — more than the Super Bowl. His horoscopes commonly followed news programs, including Univision’s “Primer Impacto,” a “60 Minutes”-like investigative show.

After blowing a kiss to the camera, Mercado signed off each night with his signature line, “Pero sobre todo, con mucho, mucho amor” — “But above all, with lots and lots of love.”

Mercado was a beloved fixture in the Latino community, and his annual New Year’s predictions in particular were can’t-miss events for generations of Spanish-language viewers, said film critic and freelance entertainment journalist Yolanda Machado.

“Every New Year’s, he’d have the forecast for every sign for the year to come. He told you what to do on New Year’s Eve for prosperity or love,” she told The Washington Post from Los Angeles on Sunday.

Mercado was exacting in his instructions. In his forecast for 2019, delivered in December, he instructed Geminis to “rub sandalwood oil on the front door to your house while conversing with your Heavenly Father and claiming that 2019 will be a year of better luck and better earnings.” Capricorns were advised during their next bath to “make sure to use a bar of soap that you haven’t used. When you’re done bathing, throw away the soap and place a small candle on the floor of your bathroom.”

Three years ago, Machado, a Scorpio, recalled Mercado’s instruction to wear red, take a bath and light specific candles.

“If Walter Mercado said ‘Do this, wear this,' I did,” Machado said, laughing. “It worked well.”

Because of his longevity on television, Mercado’s recognition spanned generations; Machado said Latino octogenarians to millennials, if not younger, knew who he was.

“If we started watching him casually, it’s because our mothers or grandmothers or tias had it in the background,” Machado said, using the Spanish word for aunt. “When I was little, we had to be quiet when Walter Mercado came on.”

In later years, Mercado assumed icon status among LGBTQ Latinos. Decades earlier, when Latino immigrant culture in the United States still hewed closely to traditional lines of gender expression, Machado said Mercado wore makeup, dressed in flamboyant sequins and velvet, and sported gems and jewels as he delivered astrology forecasts.

“He was different in a culture and time when differences weren’t celebrated,” Machado said. “A lot of the queer and LGBTQ community sees him as an icon. In a culture that’s overly masculine, he was not.”

His flamboyant TV persona stemmed from his difficult childhood during which he suffered from a heart condition and spoke with a stutter, Mercado told the Miami New Times during an interview earlier this year.

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Mercado worked as a dancer and actor before moving to Florida, according to UPI. After decades in television, including 15 years with Univision, Mercado wrote daily horoscopes for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Miami Herald.

Mercado’s popularity eventually transcended to English-language readers, the Miami Herald reported Sunday. Meanwhile, daily horoscopes remain among “the most-read features in el Nuevo Herald.”

For at least a brief period in the late 1990s, not everyone fell under Mercado’s spell: In 1998, fans sued the celebrity astrologer alleging that his endorsement of a jewelry company that claimed to have magical healing powers prompted them to invest in a sham business.

In 2010, Mercado changed his name to Shanti Ananda but eventually went back to using Walter Mercado professionally.

In August, the HistoryMiami Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, opened a retrospective celebrating Mercado, “Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado.”

Our thoughts are with Walter Mercado’s family at this time. It was an honor for HistoryMiami Museum to have had the opportunity to share his life and his stories with the community. May he Rest In Peace.

Posted by HistoryMiami Museum on Sunday, November 3, 2019

Jorge Zamanillo, executive director of the museum, told the Miami-New Times in July that the turnout for ticket sales spanned generations.

“It wasn’t just older people, it was all generations — including people in their 20s — going to see this, to see what was available."

In a video interview with the Miami Herald three months before his death, Mercado gave a few predictions for humanity at large.

“We’re still at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. For many years, we were in the Age of Pisces,” he said in Spanish. “But the Age of Aquarius is called the universal brotherhood. Now, same-sex couples can get married. Now, we’re completely open and people can express themselves, can accept each other. Times have changed. We’re entering a dawn of light.”

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