They poured on to the sweltering streets of Caracas in a crimson tide of mourning; a pulsing mass of humanity loyal to the memory of Venezuela's departed leader and determined that all the world should know it.
Long before the flower-strewn coffin of Hugo Chavez was even visible, the ground shook with the thump-thump of drums and the chanting of the "Chavistas", promising that the Bolivarian revolution would survive the demise of its charismatic, hyperactive leader.
"Chavez Vive! La Lucha Sigue!" - Chavez Lives! The Struggle goes on! - rhymed their rhythmic cries that echoed under motorway flyovers, along narrow streets and bounced off the crumbling tenements and office blocks the roofs and balconies of which were filled with onlookers.
The cavalcade spent most of the day winding its way through Caracas, emerging at 10am from the Military Hospital where Chavez died on Tuesday night, leaving Venezuela in a political limbo.
It began quietly, emerging behind a balding priest in white vestments, escorted by two soldiers in ceremonial brocade. Chavez's bereaved mother Elena Frias de Chavez leaned, grief-stricken, against her son's casket.
But as it passed on its way to the Military Academy where Chavez will lie in state until tomorrow's (Friday's) funeral, the procession gathered its own throbbing momentum.
Chavez may have been scoffed at for his self-aggrandising schemes by the developed world, but in the slums of Caracas the love he was shown yesterday by his poor legions was not forced.
"What am I to say? Chavez is dead!" wailed Jasmin Camero, a 38-year-old teacher, after the coffin passed. "Tell the world Chavez is dead. Our hearts are broken, our hearts are Chavez. He gave us education, he gave us houses, he gave us poor a country to be proud of."
There were many more like her, weeping and chanting their affection for a man who ruled Venezuela for 14 years and made sure that the splurging of the country's oil wealth on projects for the poor was indivisible from the promotion of his own larger-than-life personality.
Like stunt-riders at the circus, the faithful stood up tall on the seats of their motorcycles, straining to catch a glimpse of the passing casket; others shinned up lamp-posts and on to the roofs of shuttered news kiosks.
By creating more than a million extra state jobs, Chavez also created a million client-citizens and their families who remain grateful for that largesse.
"The party has done so much for us," said Jose Gergorio, 48. "After the floods [of 2010] many members of my family received new houses thanks to government loans. If the revolution continues, our lives can only get better."
But the question, unasked but ever-present, even among sections of the adoring crowds yesterday, is what comes next?
Away from the infectious theatre of the procession, Venezuelans hinted at their own lack of confidence in the future, filling supermarket aisles and petrol station forecourts to stock up on supplies.
Nicolas Maduro, the vice-president and successor officially designated by Chavez, walked grimly alongside the hearse that carried Chavez's coffin. Earlier he had declared he will campaign for the presidency in the soon-to-be announced election that the constitution says must follow Chavez's death in 30 days.
But even among the crowds yesterday there were those who dared to murmur their misgivings. "Maduro lied to the people," said 54-year-old Niriam Perez, who professed loyalty to the Chavez revolution but also doubts about his putative successor who said he had not been honest about the seriousness of Chavez's condition before he died.
"He did OK when he was following the orders of the leader, but now we will have to see how he performs on his own," she added, hinting at the loss of the political infallibility that died with Chavez on Tuesday night.
Maduro has already moved to try to unite public opinion by mobilising anger and victimhood, expelling two US diplomats, accusing Venezuela's opposition of conspiring with far-Right forces to undermine the revolution and, most ludicrously, suggesting that Chavez's cancer might have been plotted by outside forces.
The US State Department acted swiftly to deny the charges, calling them "outrageous". But a spokesperson added that the future for the country without Chavez may be tricky. "He played an outsized role and therefore his absence can have outsized implications," one official said.
Sensitive to the national moment, Venezuela's opposition leadership has kept its council ahead of the funeral, but in the more affluent neighbourhoods, whose residents see Chavez as a destroyer of Venezuela's vast potential, there was anger.
"Hate and division was the only thing that he spread," 28-year-old computer programmer Jose Mendoza told reporters in an eastern Caracas opposition bastion. "They want to make him a martyr. It made me laugh. He did a lot of social things, but he could have done much more. He also did a lot of harm because there are no institutions, there is no justice. He mistreated everyone who disagreed with his government."
But even opposition leaders say these arguments must wait until after Venezuela has had time to lay its hyperactive leader to rest. That will happen tomorrow when many world leaders will gather in this city for one last act in the extraordinary life and death of Hugo Chavez.
"This is not the moment to highlight what separates us," said Henrique Capriles, the man who lost to Chavez in last year's general election. "This is not the hour for differences; it is the hour for union, it is the hour for peace."