Hortência is of Italian background, her grandparents having moved to Brazil from that European nation. Hortência's father was a laborer.
When Hortência was ten years old, her family moved to São Paulo, and Hortência became interested in sports. Her family disapproved of her choice to play sports, since her father had been disabled on the field and they wanted her to work bringing home part of the earnings her father used to. But they eventually gave up trying to keep her from her favorite activity.
Hortência began to play as a professional with the São Caetano Esporte Clube, becoming an instant celebrity in Brazil. Over the years, she played for Associação Prudentina, C.A Minercal, C.A Consteca/Sedox, NCNB Ponte Preta and ADC Seara until she retired from professional basketball in 1996, one year before Arcain began playing in the United States' WNBA. Hortência was a teen idol to many female basketball fans in the cities where she played, particularly at Prudentina where, during an interview with Jeremy Larner, she was stopped many times by autograph seekers on her way from her house to a game.
Hortência's first international experience came in 1976, when Brazil's women's national basketball team won the South American juvenile championship in Paraguay. In 1979, she helped her team to a fourth place at the Pan American Games held in Puerto Rico. In 1983, Hortência and the national team improved their previous Pan American performance by winning a bronze medal at the Venezuela games, while in 1987 Hortência and the Brazilian Women's national team went one step further by winning a silver medal at the 1987 Indianapolis Pan American Games. In 1991, Hortência and the Brazilian women's national basketball team won the gold medal at that year's Pan American tournament held in Cuba. In 1992, Hortência helped her team to a bronze medal at the Pre-Olympic competition held in Spain, returning later that year to that country to play in the Olympic Games for the first time. Brazil settled for seventh place at the Barcelona Olympics.
Finally in 1994, Hortência won the women's world basketball championship in Australia, making Brazil the only country other than the Soviet Union or the United States to win the title (Australia became the fourth in 2006). The semi-final game against the USA is considered one of the greatest in history, and Brazil shocked the world with the victory. After the silver medal in the next Olympic Games, Marcari retired from international competition.