In the 1990s and early 2000s, in between reports of local crime and depressing national news, Univision 34 Los Angeles would air an astrology segment from Walter Mercado.
When the man in sequin capes and sparkling jewels popped up on screen, I would yell out, “Mami, Walter,” and my mother would race to the living room, often flustered from cooking dinner.
I’d shut my textbooks, she would sit down at the table with me, and we’d listen for when Walter would face the camera and provide the daily horoscope for our zodiac signs.
My mother, who studied child psychology in El Salvador and taught catechism classes, knew Walter’s predictions weren’t true. No one could see the future, she said, and not all of his promises materialized.
Yet every afternoon, she and millions of viewers across Latin America would spend time with this former dancer and actor from Puerto Rico.
I never asked why. I just liked having my mother close to me at the table. I liked seeing her take a break before rushing back to the kitchen, after a long day of cleaning mansions. I liked how her face lit up when Walter would say that Libras like her should open their hearts to good fortune.
And I liked Walter, who would end his show wishing us all peace and blessings from God and offering a lot of love, with dramatic hand gestures and rolling r’s in Spanish. He projected hope every day.
Then I turned 15. Then my mother died of cancer. Then I felt hopeless.
And yet, Walter was still there every afternoon, wishing me all the best.
Now my father sat beside me at the dinner table.
Growing up, I would only see him in the mornings or on weekends due to his night shift managing supplies at the hospital. After my mother’s death, he switched to a day shift. I learned that he, too, liked Walter.
He liked how Walter would tell viewers that positive thinking was the first step in reaching personal goals. He liked how Walter embraced femininity with his clothes and manner, despite the machismo that is so pervasive in Latino culture. My dad was, after all, learning to play both parental roles. He liked how Walter spoke of spirituality in a calm tone. And my father loved sharing a Leo sign with me.
Watching Walter made him feel as though our father-daughter bond was written in the stars.
When I called my father this month to let him know Walter had died, he sighed.
He said he was sad because the world lost someone who inspired so much hope and love, who wanted everyone to feel inner peace. Maybe that’s what my mother loved about him.
The world, growing more chaotic each day, may no longer have Walter. My father and I may no longer have my mother.
But we have each other. We have hope.
And in the words of Walter Mercado, we have mucho, mucho, mucho amor.