They began arriving at dawn. By late afternoon, the line had doubled back twice along the side of the baseball stadium where the Diablos Rojos normally play. Filing quietly past the closed ticket window, many holding photographs of their missing relatives, they waited patiently to be granted entrance.
Inside, the Diablos Rojos home team dugout was filled with men pounding on heavy manual typewriters, laboriously filling out the death certificates without which the authorities would not let the bodies leave the stadium. The corpses lay on the ground, covered with plastic bags of ice, shaded by the Army tents pitched in right field.
"The bodies are in good condition," said Dr. Cuauhtemoc Herrero, the coordinator at the identification center. "Thank God for the ice."
Celerio Cruz Guzman had not left for work yet Thursday when his apartment collapsed into the Superleche market below. "We know they pulled the bodies out right away, but we don't know where they put them," said his brother as he stood in line today waiting to be shown the bodies. He spoke wearily, without emotion. "This is the third center I've been to."
A few blocks south of the shattered Centro Medico, which before Thursday had been Mexico's biggest hospital complex, the baseball stadium was one of several emergency identification centers set up around the city today. More than 2,000 bodies had been extricated from the rubble of earthquake-flattened buildings and delivered to the centers by noon today, authorities estimated.
Answering official pleas, meat packers and supermarkets dispatched trucks filled with ice to the centers. Outside, volunteers issued blue and green paper surgical masks to the waiting crowd.
Five miles farther south, beyond the central city district devastated by Thursday's earthquake, many of the 400 bodies collected at Los Venaditos Park had been removed for burial by last night.
Today, residents lined up for hours with donations of produce, clothing, crates of oranges and freshly cooked casseroles. Volunteer workers thanked the donors and noted quietly that they were not receiving the things they most desperately needed -- intravenous fluid, flashlight batteries, syringes and volunteers with trucks.
In other neighborhoods on the periphery of the city, the earthquake exists only as images on television and requests for food and clothing and medicine. City officials have asked people not to visit the damaged downtown district unless they absolutely must.
"It all seems so abstract," said a housewife in the untouched southern suburbs. "It's like we lived in a completely different city."
The mood was different at the Diablos Rojos stadium. By this afternoon, as the wooden grandstand cast its shadow over right field, 52 of the 65 bodies brought there since the morning had been identified. More corpses kept arriving.
"No, it's not him," a young woman said as Red Cross workers lifted an ice bag off the face of a young man who had been crushed beneath tons of concrete debris. She erupted into tears. "No, it's not him; it isn't him." Next to her, an elegantly dressed man squatted over the partially exposed body of a middle-aged woman. He picked up her hand, and his finger slowly traced the outline of the stone set in her wedding ring.
A somber college student, also in line, said, "I started looking for my brother Thursday morning -- don't publish my name, please, put my brother's name instead. Martino Rosales Rosales -- that was his name."