Excellent amateur sambista Paulo da Portela wrote sambas that were recorded by some of the best interpreters of the Golden Age of Song in Brazil. He was also the founder of the samba school of Portela, together with Antônio Rufino, Benício dos Santos, Manuel Gonçalves, and others. Portela was a member of ranchos carnavalescos, adhering to samba influenced by the friend Heitor dos Prazeres. In the '20s, he was already a regular at the house of the baiana Ester Maria da Cruz, where she kept a roda de samba.
In 1932, Mário Reis recorded his samba "Quem Espera Sempre Alcança" for Odeon. Two years later, he became the treasurer of the league of the samba schools União Geral das Escolas de Samba. Portela introduced allegories in his school, Vai Como Pode, in 1935, the year in which it won the carnival contest at Praça Onze, parading to his samba "Guanabara." The same samba was renamed as "Cidade-Mulher," being recorded 40 years later by Alcides Lopes for the LP Portela in a series dedicated to the history of the samba schools by the recording company Marcus Pereira Discos. In 1935, the Vai Como Pode was dissolved, becoming G.R.E.S. da Portela. In 1937, Carlos Galhardo recorded the little masterpiece "Cantar Pra Não Chorar" (written with Heitor dos Prazeres) for RCA Victor, the same year in which Portela was designated Cidadão Samba by the league of the samba schools. In 1939, Portela won the contest again with his "Teste de Samba." He worked with Cartola in 1941 in the Rádio Cruzeiro do Sul. The show Voz do Morro was hosted by both and presented new sambas to the listeners, who suggested names for them. In 1941, Portela won the annual contest with his "Dez Anos de Glória" (with Antônio Caetano) once more, opening its period of glory -- the school would win the contest in the following ten years. In that same year, he had a question with Portela's directors, moving for the Lira do Amor, substituting Coutinho, who died in that year, as mestre de canto. In 1942, together with Cartola and Heitor dos Prazeres, he formed the Grupo Carioca, which performed in São Paulo SP in the Rádio Cosmos. They also performed individually in that city. In 1965, his samba "Pam-Pam-Pam-Pam" was posthumously included in the historic show Rosa de Ouro and recorded on the LP Rosa de Ouro (Odeon). The Velha Guarda da Portela recorded his partido alto "Cocoró" for the LP Portela, Passado de Glória (RGE, 1970). Alvaiade recorded his samba "Quitandeiro" on the LP Portela (Marcus Pereira, 1974). His name is paid tribute in the sambas "De Paulo da Portela a Paulinho da Viola" (Francisco Santana/Monarco) and "Passado de Glória" (Monarco).