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Flamboyant Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado dead at 88

Walter Mercado, a flamboyant astrologer and an iconic presence on Spanish-language TV for decades, died in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday.

He was 88.

A spokeswoman for Auxilio Mutuo Hospital said Mercado died of kidney failure.

Beloved by millions of television viewers, Mercado delivered daily horoscopes with a message of “lots and lots of love.”

“He endows the drag queen with papal authority,” New York University Tisch School of Performing Arts Professor Diana Taylor wrote in 2003.

Mercado never publicly stated his sexuality, but became an icon in the gay community and an unlikely popular figure in Latino community, said Los Angeles filmmaker Alex Fumero, who spent two years working on a documentary about Mercado.

“This is a culture that’s been dominated by machismo and homophobia for a very long time,” Fumero said. “He was one of the most loving people. Being around him, you felt good.”

Mercado was born March 9, 1932, aboard a Spanish ship bound for Puerto Rico, CNN reported.

He was raised in Ponce, and began his career as an actor and dancer, making appearances in various “telenovelas” — popular Spanish-language television soap operas — in Puerto Rico.

Walter-Mercado
Getty ImageWalter-Mercados

His career as a TV astrologer began by chance in 1969, when the regular horoscope wiz at the Telemundo Puerto Rico TV station failed to show up and the network put Mercado on instead, according to Spanish-language WIPR-TV.

The station was flooded with calls asking for Mercado to return, the station said.

At the height of his popularity, his daily horoscope readings, done with dramatic flair, reached 120 million viewers.

Mercado moved to Univision in Miami in 1990, appearing on “Primer Impacto.”

He left the network in 2010 and later wrote a column for El Nuevo Heraldo, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language arm.

He also launched a website in 2015 where he would offer readings and answer questions.

“He is one of those people who used his celebrity and power to reach millions in order to inspire people with good messages,” said Aida Levitan, who helped organize an exhibit at the History Miami museum in August to honor Mercado.

“He used all his gifts and talents for the good of mankind and that’s what makes him so appealing.”

With Post wires