TACOMA, Wash. -- Frances Lorenz’s love for Cuba started at a young age when her mother gave her a Cuban textbook to help her learn Spanish.
"She taught me the phrase in Spanish, ‘Cuba is the most beautiful nation in the world.’ So, I was brainwashed. Let’s face it. I was brainwashed to love Cuba at the age of 8."
Her love for the Latin American country continued into adulthood.
In 2000, she was part of a local group that helped establish a sister city relationship between Tacoma and Cienfuegos, Cuba.
"Sister cities are a group of people with a diplomatic effort. I think it's completely valuable around the world," said Lorenz.
The Tacoma-Cienfuegos relationship is one of the oldest and most active partnerships in the country. Those in Tacoma have invested nearly $100,000 in Cuba.
"There was no water to an underserved neighborhood in Cienfuegos, and so we provided a waterline that served a clinic, a school, and I think a hospital. It was a project that was deeply needed in the community," said Lorenz.
While the death of Fidel Castro doesn't come as a surprise to Lorenz, it does make her reflect on his impact.
"Even Castro himself admitted that the economic part of the revolution didn't work very well, but the education and the healthcare is really stellar," she said.
During her most recent trip to Cuba, she said she saw more entrepreneurship and less poverty than she had in the past.
"I expect if things continue to progress, and don't digress to where they were, that there will be opportunities for investment and greater financial prosperity of Cubans."
But, she hopes that the relationship will be more than financial between the two countries.
"You fall in love with it. There's so much love in the people. It's really transformational."
Copyright 2016 KING