Saturday, October 20, 2007

Walter Mercado (sometimes referred to simply as "Walter"; b. March 9, 1932) is a flamboyant Puerto Rican astrologer who has become a personal astrologer for many celebrities. He is currently a regular contributor to Univisión's television magazine show Primer Impacto with a daily horoscope reading.

Mercado was born March 9 on board a ship travelling from Spain to Puerto Rico. His parents are José María Mercado and Aida Salinas, a native of Catalonia, Spain. He was eventually raised in Ponce and Fajardo. Both of them motivated and influenced Mercado's interest in the Arts, Science, spirituality, and nature. He did very well in school, and was mostly an introverted child.
Allegedly, he learned to read the Tarot cards when he was a child. He is also noted to have performed small traditional Haitian voodoo ceremonies of which he had never been familiar. He believes he learned them from previous lives.

After finishing high school in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Mercado studied at the University of Puerto Rico where he studied pharmacy to please his parents. Then he studied psychology, theater, and dance.
Mercado began his career as a dancer (hometown friend and later Puerto Rican senator Velda González was a dancing partner), and was later an actor in early Puerto Rican soap operas. As such, he was one of the first Puerto Rican teen idols. He received much praise as a dancer (particularly flamenco dancing) and as an actor, usually in theater or as the male antagonist in soap operas.
One fateful day in 1967, Paquito Cordero, the producer of El Show de Las Doce, a popular noon variety show on WKAQ-TV in San Juan, needed a replacement for a small astrology segment he was testing within the program. Two previous airings had raised interest from the mostly female audience, but the person selected for the role read the scripts for each sign without showing much interest. Cordero then approached Mercado, who was a hanger-by in the studio during lunchtime, between filmings of his current soap opera. He asked Mercado to fill in for the rest of the week, to see how he would feel about the section, but warned that the section still had no sponsor, and would have to be discontinued if one was not available.
Mercado had strong self doubts about his ability to look believable giving astrological advice, and was seriously tempted to approach it as a comedy section, but since he was a fan of alternative spiritual philosophies, he decided to consult his Tarot cards to see how the experience would fare. His interpretation of the reading gave him three clues: first, that following this path would be a lifelong affair; second, that he would be extremely successful following this path, and third, that he would be blessed or guided by twelve characters or symbols. This last part puzzled him. The next morning, just minutes before going on the air, Cordero's production assistants told him that a sponsor had been found: Westinghouse, the electrical appliances company. Mercado realized that the name "Westinghouse" had twelve letters, and to him, this was as good an omen as he could receive. He restrained himself from sounding too satirical while reading the advice for each sign, but improvised explanations for the logic behind each reading that made the section, named Walter, las estrellas, y usted (Walter, The Stars and You) an instant hit among the studio audience, and later among television viewers.
Mercado then did what he recalls as a leap of faith. He decided to leave acting behind and jump head on into astrology as a career. He knew about professional astrologers such as Sydney Omarr and Jeanne Dixon, but did not know how to properly style his section as to sound believable. Enthusiastic about the response he had in his daily section (which had expanded to a 15-minute segment), he decided to make formal studies in astrology from that point on.

Studies and artistic career
For a short time in 1968, Mercado visited India, where he studied astrology. On returning to Puerto Rico, he hosted a weekly astrology television show, first on WKAQ-TV, and later on its spinoff station, WRIK-TV (channel 7 in Ponce). Westinghouse remained a steady and long-time sponsor.
At the time, Mercado had been linked romantically to a model, whom he rarely identified but always referred to as his soulmate. She died on an airplane accident in the Dominican Republic in February 1970 that killed Dominican boxer Carlos "Teo" Cruz, the Puerto Rican national volleyball team, and almost killed the entire lineup of El Gran Combo, which decided not to board the airplane at the last minute. Mercado then fell into depression, and claimed that serious meditation and adoption of Eastern philosophies made him survive the ordeal. At the same time, he also adopted a flamboyant dress-up style, based on Liberace's, claiming that grandmothers within his audience loved him dressing up in capes. One of these capes cost over USD$60,000.
When WRIK-TV was bought by Tommy Muñiz and later went bankrupt, Mercado's show soon moved to WKBM-TV, which later became WLII-TV, Tele Once (channel 11).
He has had shows on American television as well. For a while during the late 1980s, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he became better known to the American public and people of other English-speaking countries. At about that time he also managed to establish a dial-a-horoscope business in Brazil, grossing approximately 30 million dollars over a 2 1/2 year period. His strong accent when trying to say "Call Now" in Portuguese (translated as "ligue já", but pronounced by him "ligue Djá") became his trademark. He ran close to 100 different TV commercials and became a target for mockery by comedians. The campaign was popular and highly successful having lead the local astrology market, especially due to the creative use of alternative media, mainly the blackouts in satellite transmissions for local affiliates. Since Brazil has an estimated 25% homes with satellite dishes and the cost for airing on satellite ranged from 3 to 7% at the time, a whole new market was created and imitators, like Mãe Dinah, abounded. The operation came to an end when, in 1998, the Brazilian government shut down all 900 billing because telebetting was taking a dent from the federal monopoly on gaming. Reportedly the equivalent of 500 million dollars were spent by viewers on instant lotteries in the six months before the 1998 World Cup, taking massive revenue from Lotto and other government run betting products. However, to this date many Brazilians still mimic his "ligue dja" to refer to something that comes from abroad and does not take proper account of the local language or culture.
In addition to his work for celebrities, Mercado also does mall tours where he gives out his predictions for free.

Walter Mercado Spiritual credentials

Mercado's trademarks are his wildly colored capes, designer suits and sharp wit.
He often involves world situations, politics, The Bible and numerous other themes in his predictions.
Mercado's main philosophy deals with love and his message centers on this.
Many people believe his horoscopes apply to everyone and are not specific to your sign.
Although Mercado is widely rumoured to be gay, a news story circulated in early 2004 that Mercado would soon be marrying a long-time friend at the age of 74.

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