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Manuel Arteaga y Betancourt was born in Camagüey to Rosendo Arteaga Montejo and his wife Delia Betancourt Guerra. Baptized as Manuel Francisco del Corazon de Jesus on April 17, 1880 by Father Vigilio Arteaga, he was confirmed by Archbishop José Martín on November 17, 1882. His paternal uncle, a priest by the name of Ricardo Arteaga Montejo, took Manuel to Venezuela in 1892, the former having previously left Cuba for that county for political reasons.
Arteaga obtained his bachelor's in philosophy on June 15, 1898 from Universidad Central de Venezuela, and entered a Capuchin convent in Caracas in 1900. However, for reasons of health, he left the convent and entered the Seminary of Santa Rosa de Lima in Caracas on April 12, 1901.
Receiving the subdiaconate and diaconate in 1902, Arteaga was eventually ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Juan Bautista Castro on April 17, 1904. He did pastoral work in Cumaná from 1906 to 1912, and then in Camagüey until 1915. Before becoming Canon Schoolmaster in 1916, Arteaga was named provisor and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Havana 1915. He was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness on May 31, 1926, and Vicar Capitular of Havana on January 3, 1940.
On December 28, 1941, Arteaga was appointed Archbishop of Havana and thus Primate of the Church in Cuba by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on February 24, 1942 from Archbishop Giorgio Caruana, with Archbishop Manuel Zubizarreta y Unamunsaga, OCD, and Bishop Eduardo Martínez y Dalmau, CP, serving as co-consecrators, in the Cathedral of Havana.
Pope Pius XII created him Cardinal Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina in the consistory of February 18, 1946, and thus the first Cuban member of the College of Cardinals. Arteaga suffered a wound to his forehead in August 1953, reported by the censored press to be from a fall in his archiepiscopal residence, and required twenty stitches. The Cardinal, in a pastoral letter that September, later explained that his injury was "a common criminal attempt" by a group of strangers, putting to rest the suspicions that he had been pistol-whipped by governmental agents who were searching his residence for hidden revolutionaries or weapons.
He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1958 papal conclave, which selected Pope John XXIII. Persecuted by the Communist regime of Fidel Castro, the Primate took refuge in the Argentine embassy and the Cuban nunciature from 1961 to 1962, when he was hospitalized at San Juan de Dios Hospital in Havana.
Arteaga died at the same hospital a year later, at age 83. He is buried in the Colon Cemetery.