Roland Manteiga was born to Victoriano and Ofelia at the family residence in Tampa Heights in 1920. He was raised in the Seminole Heights area where he graduated from Hillsborough High School and attended the University of Tampa. He began his career at La Gaceta delivering newspapers at age 10, and at 17 he became the circulation manager.
The decade between 1943-1953 proved to be a watershed for the paper. The coming of World War II brought dramatic changes to the State of Florida. The increase in defense activities brought thousands of servicemen to army and navy, and MacDill airfield in Tampa was no exception.
Shipbuilding and agriculture bolstered the economy. Tampa and Ybor City reflected the patriotic spirit of the war. Circulation of the paper increased and the number of its pages doubled.
Roland, like many of his peers, went into military service. He served overseas in the infantry in Japan and the Philippines. Upon his return to Tampa, he went back to work at La Gaceta, taking a more active part in the business. It was during this decade that the paper became bilingual and later trilingual. In 1950 the Linguaphone Institute named La Gaceta the best Spanish newspaper published in the nation. To this day La Gaceta remains the nation’s only trilingual newspaper.
Florida emerged from the war with renewed optimism. The 1950 census added two new seats in the national House of Representatives. Population was steadily rising and mass media was coming into its own.
Nonetheless, the increasing popularity of radio and television news was drawing customers away from the printed page and La Gaceta was no exception. “You have a small paper and you have to think of ways you can exist and you can survive. It’s really a very tough business,” reminisced Roland. “I remember back in the early 50s when we switched from a daily to a weekly. I can’t tell you how many years I was paid $5, $6, $7 a week. It was a real sacrifice. It was not unusual for me to work 14 hours a day.”
He continued, “Years ago I was thinking about leaving the paper, but my father would have been left alone and how was I going to do that? I wasn’t making any money and I could have gone to work for someone else and made a good living. But then you get involved and you say, well, I’m going to stick it out another day, then another year and so on, and the years go by.”
Well, the years went by and his column, As We Heard It, grew in popularity and size. He developed a reputation for honesty and fair play. It was not uncommon to find him writing in defense of the Latin community or the underdog in general.
It wasn’t long before Roland’s uncanny ability to predict the outcome of political races and his insider knowledge gained him statewide notoriety.
His predictions and scoops were often reprinted in two popular political newsletters of the time and soon newspapers from around the state began quoting him. Many were amazed at how he managed to elicit even the most closely guarded information. Roland was always able to keep things stirred up locally as well as statewide.
Through the years, As We Heard It and its dapper author became a major political influence. Able to draw the attention of almost every resident and visiting politician intent on wooing voters – including such luminaries as Jimmy Carter and George Bush – Manteiga was a powerful force in the political arena.
Victoriano retired as publisher in 1961, leaving Roland in charge. Patrick, Roland’s son, started working for La Gaceta that same year to later take over as Publisher, determined to keep the paper alive for his children to carry on.
Roland passed away in 1998, leaving three children: two daughters, Victoria and Rebecca, and a son, Patrick.