‘Mucho Mucho Amor’ goes beyond the stars

Source: The New Yorker

“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado” is an astronomical journey across the legacy of famed astrologer Walter Mercado. Directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch deliver on answering the questions not even the stars could answer from who Mercado was and, most importantly, what had happened after his sudden disappearance.

Walter Mercado was a legend in the Latinx community with a constant presence on the radio and television, eventually garnering his own television show and a segment on Univision’s “Primer Impacto.” He presented himself as a magical figure akin to a sorcerer or magician.

Looming larger than life, Mercado gives the directors and viewers insight into his life from his home in Puerto Rico, narrating and filling us in on his history in his own words. His insights are accompanied by archived footage and never-before-seen photos from his personal life and career.

Other Latinx celebrities, such as writer-actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and actor Eugenio Derbez, as well as close family and friends, “Mucho Mucho Amor” expands beyond the personal narrative to give more insights from personal experiences with Walter to the fan experience of seeing him.

“Mucho Mucho Amor” is a love letter like no other, presenting him as the larger-than-life figure Mercado always portrayed. One clever addition is dividing the film in chapters using Tarot card imagery to present each segment of his life. For example, “The Star” card begins his rise to stardom as “The Cloaked Man” dives into a segment devoted to Mercado’s fabulous array of capes.

Another treat is being able to see Mercado in his prime years via archive videos that have not been seen for years, even some that still have the VHS tracking going adding some charming nostalgia. There’s also a tinge of humor involved with this as when “Primer Impacto,” known in the Latinx community for reporting supernatural stories, is mentioned, the first clip is a reporter talking about Chupacabra murders in Mexico.

A new discovery as a viewer was learning about Mercado’s brief time trying to crossover into the English-language market back in the late 1990s with talk show appearances including an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show,” “Sally,” “Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee” and ads for the now-defunct Psychic Friends Network.

One segment that stands out focuses on Mercado’s LGBTQ+ icon status and his own sexaulity. The Latinx community has a prevalent problem with homophobia which is explored in the imitations shown of him, yet Mercado brushes it off and doesn’t care.

Mercado’s gender fluidity is important as queer identity within the Latino community is still not widely accepted. It’s definitely a step-up from Mercado’s media reign, but to those trying to find someone in the community to identify with, Mercado was a breath of fresh air.

There’s a majesty to the documentary, it shows how Mercado gave love and hope in his words, combining different religious concepts, reflecting that in his astrological readings. It also ends bitter sweet with Walter being praised in a museum, shortly before his death in Nov. 2019.

The documentary succeeds to show those who grew up with Mercado, and newcomers marveled by the modern myth, by giving devotion to the man himself with “Mucho Mucho Amor.”

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