As I write this it’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning and just when I thought I was ready to get in bed and browse Reddit until my eyes closed, my mind said “start writing.” For context, I just finished watching the brilliant Walter Mercado documentary on Netflix, Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado from directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch. I was standing in my kitchen just replaying the moments in my mind when an overwhelming feeling came over me and I had to put it into words.
As many Latinxs growing up in the United States, there wasn’t an evening that went on in my house without hearing our horoscopes from the all-knowing astrologer. Being in a house of all women, my grandmother (Cancer,) mom (Cancer,) sisters (Gemini and Sagittarius,) and I (Aquarius) gathered around our TV to hear what Walter had in store for us. Mind you, I barely knew what anything meant but it felt great to hear Walter say “Aquario” in his powerful but loving voice and some nice message after it.
As we got older and the household dynamics began to shift, we weren’t able to get our daily horoscopes from Walter anymore, but the love of astrology remained. I was a vigilant checker of my horoscope, never missing a day in my teen years once the horoscope app became a thing. To this day, I get my fortune told, believe in the universe, the energies, the vibes, and what my husband so lovingly calls “brujeria.” Hell, I even write articles imagining the horoscopes of my favorite anime characters.
As I’ve gotten older and the more popular horoscopes on social media have become, I’ve taken a step back. Trust me, I know I’m a double Aquarius with a Cancer moon, but I also don’t need 300 tweets with incorrect Aquarius stereotypes (or any other sign for the matter.) Something so positive quickly becomes negative as people list the worst signs or most “toxic.” Naturally, I pick and choose what I subscribe to.
When I learned of the Walter Mercado documentary, I was ecstatic because: 1) I love a good documentary and 2) who doesn’t love THE Walter Mercado? I was expecting to learn more about his background, what his peers thought of him, and see old clips, but I wasn’t expecting to be hit with such emotions, not only for Walter’s life but for who he really was.
The documentary is an intimate look at Walter’s life before his death in November of 2019. It takes its viewers of a journey through Walter’s humble beginnings in Puerto Rico, his acting career, and how he became THE Walter Mercado. I won’t spoil the documentary for anyone, and who am I kidding, even if I tried, there aren’t enough words that could ever describe what a beautiful documentary that was. But what I will say is this, the one thing I’m here, 30 minutes later sitting with, is who Walter was. He was, without a doubt, unapologetically himself.
Walter loved himself. He loved being THE Walter Mercado. He wasn’t ashamed to admit he had botox, he wore expensive capes and jewelry, and that he loved the attention from the public. His family spoke proudly about how much Walter lived for meeting fans and being with everyone. His nieces spoke on how he loved the attention and when the cameras were on him. In the film, you watch him literally light up when he’s at the museum event in Miami. The entire documentary, his family, his adoring assistant Willie (who I am now obsessed with,) fellow Latinx celebrities all spoke so highly of him. They loved how much Walter loved himself and his fans.
And that’s what hits me. Walter Mercado didn’t dim his light. He was proud of who he was. He wasn’t shying away from disclosing that he liked the fabulous capes and the lifestyle. I can’t help but think about how I want to live like that. How much I want my Black and Brown brothers and sisters to live like that too. We live in this constant battle of being confident of who we are, yet being reminded to be humble and grateful. “Be yourself” but if you admit you like designer, you’re bougie. “Be proud of your accomplishments” but don’t list too many of them off because then you’ll just be bragging. “Look your best” but don’t act like you think you look too good, because then you’re conceited. This runs so much deeper than this, but the conversation on how Black and Brown people, are systematically taught to put ourselves down, diminish ourselves, and even compete amongst ourselves is one I’ll have to revisit soon.
I can’t count the number of times I have put “little” in front of my blog, my work in radio, my community events, my podcast, my Youtube channel, in order to not come off like I was bragging. The number of times I’ve rewritten captions, tweets, or posts because I wanted to share good news but I didn’t want it to come off “wrong.” The number of times I’ve stopped myself from sharing my weight loss journey because I didn’t want people to think I was too full of myself. And the list goes on and on.
This isn’t just about wanting to hype myself up in a post. The effects run so much deeper. I can’t help but think of the opportunities I missed out on because I was too scared to shoot my shot for fear of coming off too strong or confident. Or what about the times I did shoot my shot but undersold myself because I did not want to seem overeager. How many times have people doubted me because it appeared that I was doubting myself?
I always say that people only take you as seriously as you take yourself, in all your endeavors, and I’ve taken myself seriously, but I also know I could have allowed myself to shine more.
This is why seeing Walter Mercado giving himself his flowers, very openly and without shame, was important to me and I believe is important to so many others. Walter Mercado, in this one hour and thirty-minute documentary, a brief snapshot really, of his life, let us know that you are who you MAKE yourself to be. Walter was a poor boy from the sugar cane fields in Puerto Rico who became one of the most famous and beloved astrologers in the world. He created the life he lived and he loved it, and if he can do that, so can we.