Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao

Assistant Professor and Research Director for Public and Policy Programs

Fast Facts

  • Assistant professor at the Miller Center
  • Research director for Miller Center Presents public programs
  • Expertise on Cuba, U.S.-Cuban relations, opposition and dissident movements, democratization, Hispanics in America

Areas Of Expertise

  • Foreign Affairs
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Domestic Affairs
  • Human Rights and Civil Rights

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao is assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs at the Miller Center. Her programmatic work centers primarily on Miller Center Presents and she recently served as co-editor of the First Year 2017 opportunity and mobility volume. Prior to her appointment in 2007, Lopez-Gottardi Chao held positions at Emory University’s Institute for Comparative and International Studies, the University of Miami’s North-South Center and Barclays Bank Latin American Regional Office. She has also worked as a consultant to Freedom House. Lopez-Gottardi Chao received her undergraduate degree in politics and Spanish from Middlebury College, and her doctorate from the University of Miami’s School of International Studies. Her dissertation, The Growth of Opposition in Cuba: Problems and Prospects for Democratization, was awarded the 2005 Alberto J. Varona Prize for best dissertation in Cuban studies.

Lopez-Gottardi Chao's scholarship examines the evolving nature of U.S.-Cuban relations, the state of human rights on the island, and Cuba’s opposition and dissident movement, considering prospects for democratization from this sector. The December 2014 change in U.S.-Cuban relations and the direct role played by President Obama in altering this policy has created an alignment between Lopez-Gottardi Chao's core scholarship with a focus on the American presidency and in particular, executive decision making.

Drawing on past research related to democracy promotion efforts via studies of USAID and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, Lopez-Gottardi Chao is also interested in broader U.S. foreign policy questions. In addition, she is beginning research on the growing Hispanic population in the United States, and the implications this demographic will have on domestic policymaking and the role of the presidency in assimilating this core and expanding minority group. 

Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao News Feed

Sunday’s protests in cities across Cuba were unprecedented in their scale and in the boldness of Cuban citizens to confront authorities and the repression that has plagued them for six decades. While reminiscent in some ways of the Aug. 5, 1994 “maleconazo” that brought a few thousand Cubans to Havana’s waterfront, and to the 1980 storming of the Peruvian embassy, the sweep and scope of this weekend’s protests appear to mark a new and distinct era of broad citizen defiance and disaffection with the island’s 62-year old communist regime.
The Hill
While many hoped that former President Barack Obama’s détente would lead to greater freedoms for civil society, in reality little in U.S. policy at the time demanded it, and so President Joe Biden is right to take note and chart it more cautiously.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"It is now widely known that COVID-19 infections have disproportionately affected the Hispanic community — a cohort also affected by lower rates of insurance coverage — so this was likely top of mind and a motivating factor on Election Day," agrees Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao, assistant professor and research director for public and policy programs at the Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia.
Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao Univision
Despite an extremely tight race and some expectations that Joe Biden would gain ground among Hispanics in Florida (in a similar fashion to Hillary Clinton’s 62 percent Latino support in 2016), the state went to Donald Trump. The state’s large and diverse Hispanic population — estimated at 5.7 million — seems to have played a major role in which way Florida leaned. According to the latest projections, Trump garnered 55 percent of Florida’s Cuban American vote (up an estimated 1 percentage point from 2016), a surprising 30 percent of the state’s Puerto Rican vote, which has tended to lean Democratic, and an estimated 48 percent of Latinos from Central and South America and the Caribbean. This diversity among Florida’s large immigrant communities have made the state fascinating to examine and critical to electoral politics.
Cristina Lopez-Gottardi Chao The Hill
The COVID-19 pandemic raises new and interesting questions, as well as challenges, for both Democrats and Republicans regarding their ability to garner the Latino vote.
The Hill
The region's financial and political problems could make this health crisis even worse 
The Hill