Guadalupe “Lupita” Rangel knows first-hand the challenges of working through grief and finding new meaning after hardship. Rangel, an Assistant Project Manager in Haskell’s Mexico City Design Center, was planning her wedding to her fiancé, Óscar Reyes, when her life changed forever.
Rangel and Reyes had been dating for almost three years and engaged for eight months when they took a trip to Cancun in February 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic had been raging for nearly a year in North America, and both returned home suffering from flu-like symptoms. When Rangel tested positive for COVID, she encouraged her fiancé to get tested, as well.
“When he applied his test at home, he was positive,” Rangel said. “‘I said to him, ‘You need to take medication,’ because when he was young, he was a smoker. He had complications with his health.”
But Reyes did not seek medical treatment. He stayed at home with his mother and niece. Rangel recalls her fiancé saying, “This is COVID, but I am OK.”
On February 18, 2021, just four days after his confirmed diagnosis, Reyes suffered from a lack of oxygen. He could not receive emergency medical attention in time and passed away in his home. He was 45.
“I was in shock. I screamed,” Rangel said. “I didn’t think it was real. It was a hell moment. I didn’t have the opportunity to say ‘goodbye’ to him. It was a shock to understand that hours ago, I could listen to him — and then he passed away. It was terrible.”
After Reyes’ passing, Rangel struggled. Every day required courage for her to face the challenges of work and an uncertain future without her fiancé.
During remote meetings, Rangel occasionally had to close the camera and regroup. She recalls making errors in her work because she was distracted. She fell into a deep depression and wasn’t sure she wanted to continue to live. Her future was unclear, and her plans were broken.
“This event changed my life. I cried all the time. I was thinking he was going to return — to call me. I thought I was dreaming,” she said.
Instead of taking time off, she sought more work opportunities to occupy her mind. Haskell offers access to licensed therapists, but Rangel waited a year after Reyes’ passing before taking that step. In the meantime, she accepted support from her family, friends and colleagues.
“She tries to be busy all the time,” said Eric Valdiviez, Mexico City Design Director. “I understand she is doing that because she is trying to keep her mind busy.”
Rangel joined Haskell in early 2020. She was looking for a change from her role as a quality supervisor in the concrete industry. She saw an open position with Haskell, specifically for someone with a knowledge of chemistry, construction and project management. Ramon Ramirez, now Haskell’s Vice President of International Design & Consulting, hired Rangel and said he did so for her initiative and courage – qualities that align with Haskell’s values.
Those traits propelled her toward a new outlet for grief when she began training to participate in fitness competitions.
Rangel said exercise was her first form of therapy.
“My first intention to work out was to do something because I recognized I was in a deep depression,” she said. “Nothing helped me to change my feelings. At that moment, I felt that exercise could change me.”
Rangel exercised at the gym every day. After a few months, her friend, and soon-to-be personal trainer, Diana, approached her about participating in a competition.
“I took this as an opportunity to change my life,” Rangel said.
One night, Rangel dreamed her fiancé said, “Lupita, I am sorry I passed away. But I need you to continue with your life. You need to enjoy your life and be very happy.’ He asked me to be happy. I am going to do my best.”
Rangel decided to prove to herself — and her fiancé — that his love was bigger than his death. Rangel entered the Iberoamerica Cup with her memory of Reyes as her motivation.
“Wherever he is, he feels proud of me. I’m doing this for him,” said Rangel.
With hard work and discipline, Rangel prepared to compete. Her training schedule was rigorous – up to three hours per day for at least three months before the competition. She changed her diet, cutting out starches and sugar and eating only lean protein and vegetables.
She ran for an hour in the morning, lifted weights in the afternoon and ran another hour in the evening — every single day.
As Rangel’s body transformed, so did her mindset and attitude. She felt motivated to work even harder and noticed her mental fog disappearing. She began to think that one day her grief would pass.
Two weeks before the competition, Rangel received news that the Iberoamerica Cup was postponed for four months. Later, it was delayed again, which meant more months of workouts and strict eating. But she was determined.
“I never imagined I could win,” she said. “My only objective was to participate.”
On November 27, 2022, Rangel competed in two events Iberoamerica Cup events, Bikini Fitness Rookie and Best Fantasy Dress of the Night. Her discipline paid off. She won both events.
She wore a special dress in the competition to celebrate her fiancé.
“I thought, ‘This is for you.’ This was the way I wanted to close the process of grief. I will remember him the rest of my life,” she said.
Rangel is now preparing for her second competition: Musclemania, an international event scheduled for September in Mexico. She is already in her training regimen and working to meet qualifying standards.
“My intention for the competition this year is to celebrate me — that after these events and things that have happened, I could say, ‘OK you are suffering, yes, of course,’ but to also say, ‘You are alive,’” she said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and change.”
Rangel’s colleagues have noticed a positive change in their teammate. She is more energetic, confident and willing to overcome the challenges that come her way at Haskell.
“We are very proud of her,” said Patricia Nava, Supervisor of Administrative Services.
“We are happy having her on our team, and we will always be there for her — whatever she needs,” Valdiviez said.
Rangel closed her grief wearing a tiara. She now believes that if you really want something, you can achieve it.
“It’s up to you,” she said. “Think about your desires and wishes. If you focus, you will live your dream. Even if tragedy happens, it does not mean life is over.”
Haskell is committed to the physical and mental well-being of all its team members, contract partners and clients. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives. Learn about behaviors that may indicate that someone is thinking about suicide. For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.
What drew you to your career?
I studied chemical sciences, and chemistry gave me the training to get involved in different industries and activities. Discovering the world through experiments is wonderful.
Where is your favorite travel destination, and why?
I love to travel to the beach, Cancún and Los Cabos (Mexico) to feel the water, to listen to the waves and to be in front of the sea. It gives me the opportunity to observe the force of the water, and, of course, to think about different topics. It is amazing to be in front of the sea.
Complete this sentence:
I couldn’t make it through the week without training and smiling and reading.
Who is your role model and how have they influenced you?
My mother. She grew up in a poor economic area, and since she was 12 years old, she had been working, She is 69 now. She taught me to be more resilient. She is very strong and noble. She did not have the chance to study, but she is very intelligent. And she is learning she is brave.
What does being a Haskell team member mean to you?
It represents achieving excellence. It is a pleasure to be with Haskell.
Promoting and expanding diversity and inclusion is a strategic pillar of Haskell’s long-term vision and is foundational to creating a team member experience of significance, success and satisfaction. Haskell Together is our intentional and consistent initiative to promote open dialogue and bring about positive change.
Haskell delivers more than $1.5 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,000 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.
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