Today is the 90th birthday of Walter Mercado. Your abuela watched him every day and screamed at you if you somehow forgot to stay absolutely silent during his show. If you haven’t watched his Netflix show yet, you really really should. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Walter Mercado Salinas
DATE OF BIRTH: 9 March 1932
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ponce, Puerto Rico
DATE OF DEATH: 2 November 2019
PLACE OF DEATH: San Juan, Puerto Rico
REMANS: Señorial Memorial Park, Cupey, San Juan, Puerto Rico
BEST KNOWN FOR: Walter Mercado Salinas, also known by his stage name Shanti Ananda, was a Puerto Rican astrologer, actor, dancer, and writer, best known as a television personality for his shows as an astrologer.
Mercado was born on 9 March 1932, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he spent his early childhood. His parents were José María Mercado, from San Germán, Puerto Rico, and Aída Salinas from Catalonia, Spain. Mercado believed that he had spiritual abilities, even as a child. He attended university majoring in pedagogy, psychology and pharmacy, and used these skills to teach others, to study the human mind and to learn about the healing properties of medicinal plants.
Mercado Salinas studied singing and had a talent for dancing. He also studied classical and modern ballet. He was one of the most prolific dancers in Puerto Rico. He was the dancing partner of comedian Velda González.
Walter Mercado worked as an actor in the 1960s Puerto Rican telenovelas Un adiós en el recuerdo (A Farewell to the Memory) and Larga distancia (Long Distance), and also had a dramatic arts school called Walter Actors Studio 64.
His TV debut as an entertainer came when Puerto Rican producer Elín Ortíz invited him to perform on his TV show when one guest artist did not show up. Walter Mercado happened to be at the station and Ortiz asked Mercado to use the 25-minute allotment scheduled for the other guest, to make astrological predictions wearing colorful and extravagant robes. After that, Mercado was made a regular in the show making astrological predictions. He would frequently appear in heavily-decorated costumes and capes.
In 1986, Mercado was awarded the title Mr. Televisión by the Asociación de Cronistas del Espectáculo de Nueva York (Association of Latin Entertainment Critics of New York). By the end of the 1980s, Mercado had authored seven books, of which one, Más allá del horizonte (Beyond the Horizon), was published in three languages (Spanish, English and Portuguese).
From the mid 1990s until 2010, Mercado’s show aired in the Univision network throughout the Americas, but on 8 January 2010, after a fifteen-year relationship, he announced that he and Univision had parted ways. He was managed by entrepreneur Bill Bakula. In 2005, he was invited to appear on Welsh singer/songwriter Lisa Scott-Lee’s show Totally Scott-Lee to give her a special reading. From 1994 to 2009, he also appeared on Primer Impacto, which airs on the Univision network in the United States.
Other ventures Mercado was involved with in the mid-2010s included a dating website; a line of Zodiac-themed soaps and hygiene items; and a popular personal website and app offering daily horoscopes and more. His eponymous website received over 1 million visits in the first month. On a limited basis, Mercado continued to make public appearances during this time period as well.
In October 2010, Mercado changed his name to “Shanti Ananda”, a translation in Sanskrit of “peace happiness.” He says a “being of light” imparted a spiritual revelation to him, which he refers to as his “authentic mystic name.”
In January 2012, Mercado lost a lawsuit against Bart Enterprises International. He was trying to prevent it from using his name and likeness in future commercial ventures. Mercado signed a contract with the company in 1995. He severed ties with the company in 2006, which resulted in litigation being filed by both parties against each other. Chief Judge Sandra Lynch of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Bart Enterprises can continue using Mercado’s name and likeness in future commercial projects. When asked about his legal case over the rights to his name, he replied, “I worked for many years, and gave some releases without thinking much about human wickedness.”
In 2003, he announced that he maintained a “spiritual relationship” with the Brazilian actress and dancer Mariette Detotto, with whom he shared a TV program. In archival and recent interview clips on his life shown in a 2020 documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, Mercado defines himself as androgynous and insists that the primary relationship of his life is with his fans; he also joked about being a virgin into his 80s. He always maintained his residence in Puerto Rico.
In January 2012, Mercado was flown to Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, with cardiac problems. He said he “had gone and seen death and came back to life again”. Since the experience he said he had changed. He said he wanted to work with Puerto Rican youth, he planned to establish the Shanti Ananda foundation, create a mystic center, and donated three of his capes to a museum. Most of his capes had already been sold at auctions.
Mercado died on the night of Saturday, 2 November 2019, reportedly from kidney failure, at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to hospital spokeswoman Sofia Luquis. He was 87. He is buried at Señorial Memorial Park in Cupey barrio, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Historia de mi vida (1963)
Ana Rosa (1965)
La mujer de aquella noche (1968)
Entre el puñal y la cruz (1969)
Una sombra (1970)
La intrusa (1970)
Renzo el gitano (1971)
Totally Scott-Lee (2005)
Doritos advertisement (PepsiCo, 2016)
Bodas de sangre
La dama de las camelias
Androcles y el león
Los cuatro coroneles
El tríptico de amor, dolor y muerte
Todos los hijos de Dios tienen alas (1960)
Look Back in Anger (Mirando hacia atrás con ira) (1970)
Walter ’84 (1984)
Walter ’86 (1986, Sonotone)
Walter Mercado (1986)
Guía para una vida mejor (1997)
Una mujer sin precio (1966) (choreographer)
Chasing Papi (2003)
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (posthumous Netflix documentary, 2020)
Mensajes Para Vivir, co-authored with Dr. Leon Alberto Vasquez (unknown date)
Enciclopedia De Walter Mercado (Tomo 1) (1983)
Más allá del horizonte (Beyond the Horizon: Visions of the New Millennium) (1997)
Guia Para Una Vida Mejor (1997)
El Mundo secreto de Walter Mercado (Spanish Edition) (2010)