Television astrologer Walter Mercado, whose flamboyant persona made him a star in Latin media and a cherished icon for gay people in most of the Spanish-speaking world, has died. He was 88.

Mercado was known throughout Latin American for the melodrama of his daily horoscopes, delivered with an exaggerated trilling of the “r”.

Born in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce, Mercado favoured colourful brocaded capes and huge gemstone rings, which he flashed while pointing at viewers.

Mercado’s screen presence was a source of comfort for many people in Latin American LGBQTI communities, according to Alex Fumero, an LA producer who’s spent two years working on a documentary about him.

“This is a culture that’s been dominated by machismo and homophobia for a very long time,” Fumero said. “He was really brave.””

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Mercado, however, also faced some legal battles.

In 1998, he got in trouble for endorsing alleged health and beauty products and was named in a class-action lawsuit that accused him of misleading people into buying beads with supposed special powers.

Spokeswoman Sofia Luquis says Mercado died from kidney failure at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan late Saturday.

AAP

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