MANAGUA, NICARAGUA, NOV. 25 -- More than 2,000 Nicaraguans lined up at the U.S. Embassy before dawn today, spurred by a rumor that the consulate would celebrate Thanksgiving by passing out hundreds of visas to enter the United States.

The Nicaraguans were disappointed.

"I know you have heard the rumor, but it's not true we are handing out visas like candy today," Consul Wayne Griffith shouted in Spanish in an effort to disperse the crowd. Many had spent the night in a nearby field.

As Griffith moved through the crowd to explain that no visas at all would be distributed until after the Thanksgiving holiday, some people began to drift away. But others refused to leave.

"Maybe God will soften their hearts, and they will give us a Thanksgiving gift," said a woman who arrived at 4:30 a.m. "I'm going to stay all day if I have to."

"We've been waiting here since 5 p.m. {Tuesday} because a friend told me they would give out 200 visas," said Maria Tapia, 19, who was standing with her sister in a line that stretched about 300 yards down a dirt path from the embassy. "We just want to travel in the United States." Others admitted they planned to stay in the United States illegally.

There were dozens of theories about how the rumor started. The official Sandinista newspaper Barricada hinted that the embassy started it to embarrass Nicaragua, but U.S. officials said they had no idea how it got started.