Cano Manilla was born in the city of Veracruz in 1888. In his childhood, he worked as a mule driver, day laborer, coachbuilder and horse and mule shoer. He arrived in Mexico City in 1920 with the desire to study painting, and enrolled in the San Carlos Academy. The same year, he joined the Open Air School of Painting of Chimalistac where he studied under Leopoldo Méndez and Fermín Revueltas. In 1926 his works were featured in an exhibition held by the Museum of Modern Art of Madrid, and of 1928 in the International Seville Fair, where he was awarded a gold medal for his work entitled India oaxaqueña. The same year he was commissioned by Alfredo Ramos Martínez to establish the Los Reyes school in Coyoacán. Cano Manilla founded other art schools such as the open-air one in San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz. He worked as a regional director of the Regional Institute of Fine Arts from 1955 to 1970. Four years before his death (1974) in Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas, Ramón Cano Manilla was still working as a painter, teacher and muralist.