COLUMBUS DAY CELEBRATIONS : New views of Columbus lead to variety of events exploring his legacy.

Three South Bay events this weekend will explore the historical, cultural and political ramifications of Christopher Columbus' landing in the Caribbean islands 500 years ago.

On Aug. 3, 1492, with three ships, Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain, to claim new territories for the Spanish crown. About two months later, on Oct.

12, he went ashore in the Bahamas--

though exactly where is still a source of disagreement among historians. This was the first of four voyages to the Americas for Columbus, who also explored Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Panama.

Columbus, for centuries hailed in American lore as a bold explorer, and his legacy have undergone intense re-evaluation lately. While many scholars characterize Columbus as an intrepid man who overcame his fears of the unknown and ushered in a new era of exploration, others charge that the Italian native was the harbinger of destruction for the native tribes of America.

Torrance's El Camino College will honor Columbus' voyage Monday as part of its ongoing Discovery series. Photographer Robin Williams, a lecturer for the National Geographic Society for 20 years, will present a travel film charting Columbus' journey into the history books.

The film opens in Genoa, Italy--Columbus' boyhood home--then moves to Cordoba, Spain, where the explorer lobbied King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella for financial backing. The audience will also see Segovia, with its Roman aqueduct, and Toledo's main cathedral.

After presenting a re-enactment of Columbus' Atlantic crossing aboard a replica of his ship, the Santa Maria, the film will conclude with a visit to San Salvador--where some scholars believe Columbus first landed. The island's residents express their reactions to Columbus' explorations and their consequences.

In San Pedro, taking a critical view of the quincentennial will be the Iron Circle Nation--Maza Chagl'eska Oyate--a nonprofit organization that will sponsor an event called Many Winters Gathering of the Elders. It will take place at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, said to rest on sacred Indian land of the Chumash and Gabrielion tribes.

The gathering will function as a "spiritual alternative" to celebrations commemorating the voyage of Columbus, organizers say. Although the event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday, is intended for the American Indian community, members of the general public are welcome.

Educational, cultural and spiritual events for children and adults will be featured. Because the ceremony will be a sacred one, organizers will not allow alcohol, drugs, cameras or video recording devices.

In other events Sunday, the Angels Gate Cultural Center is holding an artists' afternoon reception for an exhibit titled, "Native American Perspectives: 500 Years of Survival." The show attests to the resiliency of American Indian tribes, organizers say.

Sunday morning, the Rev. Don Beaudreault of the Pacific Unitarian Church will discuss how Columbus' journey shaped American attitudes toward the environment.

* Columbus Film--Photographer Robin Williams will show his film about Columbus' historic voyage; Marsee Auditorium, Crenshaw Boulevard at Redondo Beach Boulevard, Torrance; 3:30 and 8 p.m. Monday; information: (310) 715-3406 ($5, seniors and students $3.50).

* Native American Perspective--Iron Circle Nation sponsoring a spiritual alternative to quincentennial celebrations; Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday; also, artist's reception; 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday; information: (310) 831-9065 or (310) 519-0936 (both events are free).

* Assessing Columbus--The Rev. Don Beaudreault will discuss Columbus; Pacific Unitarian Church, 5621 Montemalaga Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes; 10:30 a.m. Sunday; information: (310) 378-9449 (free).

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