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Lighthouse to shine on celebration

On Oct. 12, the light in the world's largest and most unusual lighthouse will be switched on just outside Santo Domingo to commemorate Columbus' voyages 500 years ago.

The recently completed building, whose design was chosen in a 1931 architectural competition, has been under construction on and off since 1946, although most of the work has been done in the past five years. It is nearly half a mile long, with walls some 120 feet high. Its size has brought comparisons to everything from a recumbent dinosaur or pyramid to an ultramodern weapons system.

The lighthouse's most remarkable feature _ if it works as planned _ will be the projection of a cross-shaped light so powerful that it will be seen in Puerto Rico, some 170 miles to the east. The cross has been described as representing Columbus' role in ushering Christianity into the New World.

For the opening ceremonies, foreign delegations will join tourists to watch the lights go on (or Santo Domingo's lights go off, many fear, because of the strain on the overtaxed electrical system).