Our porter is a fat, 60-something man that spends all his time in a big blue boiler suit, sitting in our building lobby, behind a small desk, reading books and polishing coins (he’s a collector of some sort). He is also an electrician by trade and picks up extra pocket money when he can by fixing up the wiring in flats belonging to the building’s residents. He is rather nice to us these days, mainly because we are nice to him. It pays to be nice to your portero, and woe betide anyone that gets on the wrong side of him. Your heating may take unusually long to get fixed when it suddenly breaks down in the dead of winter. Post may go missing on its way to your letterbox. All pure conjecture of course, but no one risks getting on the wrong side of their portero, especially as they are also famous gossips.
Apartment building porters are extremely common in Spain. Every building in the smarter areas of town will have one, though there will be very few in slightly less well-off barrios like Madrid’s Lavapies. The porter is paid by the comunidad, the collective body of flat owners who pay a monthly fee, also known as the comunidad, for the upkeep of the building, cleaning of communal stairwells etc. A porter will be given a free flat within the building they look after, meanwhile paying off or renting out another property somewhere else, often in a village outside town, to move into when they retire.
One of my ambitions is to have lunch with our porter, whose wife drives the entire comunidad wild with the aromas of thick meat stews that pour from their ground floor flat into the lobby, hitting me just as I get back from buying something far less satisfactory from the local Ahora Mas supermarket. Perhaps I can bribe my way in with a couple of old British coins for his collection.