Flamboyant Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado dies at 87

Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, whose dramatic televised horoscope readings were a favorite among Latino families worldwide, died Saturday at a San Juan hospital. He was 87.

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A family spokesman confirmed Mercado's death at Hospital Auxilio Mutuo in San Juan, the Miami Herald reported Reporters from El Nuevo Herald, the newspaper's Spanish edition, also confirmed Mercado's death through a relative.

Ivonne Bennet, one of Walter's four nieces, said her uncle died at about 9 p.m.Saturday of kidney failure, according to the Herald.

“It’s been awful,” Bennet told the newspaper. “We’ve been coming and going from the hospital for days.”

Mercado gave his horoscope readings during the final segment of the Spanish news program "Primer Impacto," The New York Times reported.

Flamboyantly dressed and animated with flowing hand gestures, Mercado, a former dancer and actor, dramatically read horoscopes to more than 120 million viewers worldwide each day, the Times reported, He read his horoscopes with an actor's flair, trilling his "r's" for effect.

Mercado's career as an astrologer began in 1969, when a guest failed to appear on a scheduled Telemundo program, according to WIPR. His segments originally were broadcast from local stations in Puerto Rico but then expanded worldwide, the Herald reported.

Mercado was broadcast in the 1980s on several television networks across Latin America and the United States, CNN reported.

Mercado, also known as Shanti Ananda, lost the rights to his name in 2010 during a legal dispute, the Herald reported. He settled the complaint and regained the rights to his name, the newspaper reported.

Mercado ended his segments the same way each day, according to the Times: "God bless you all, today tomorrow and always, and I hope you receive from me peace, a lot of peace."

Mercado then would bring both of his hands to lips and blow a kiss to the audience, saying as he signed off, “Pero sobre todo, mucho, mucho, mucho amor.”

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