Written By: Eliza Berman

In 1968, in advance of the Olympic Games which would take place that summer in Mexico City and draw many international travelers, LIFE dispatched photographer John Dominis to craft a portrait of Mexico. The photographs celebrated the country’s diverse ethnic makeup, its fiestas and its food, as well as its modernizing urban centers. The images were, for many of LIFE’s readers, a first intimate glimpse into life south of the border, and one that presented the richness of the country’s culture.

Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Fiesta in Guanajuato.

A fiesta in Guanajuato.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Park dancers in Mexico City.

Park dancers in Mexico City.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Plaza singers in Vera Cruz.

Plaza singers in Vera Cruz.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Indian of Morelia.

Morelia, Mexico, 1968.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Performers in Mexico.

Performers in Mexico.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A wonders watcher.

Mexico, 1968.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A mariachi band, Mexico.

A mariachi band, Mexico.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Incense bearer in Chiapas.

Incense bearer in Chiapas.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A young girl in Mexico.

Mexico, 1968.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Market, Mexico City.

Market, Mexico City.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Market children, San Miguel de Allende.

Market children, San Miguel de Allende.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Lily seller, San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Lily seller, San Cristóbal de las Casas.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Fruit stand, Mexico City.

Fruit stand, Mexico City.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hammock seller, Oaxaca.

Hammock seller, Oaxaca.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Man with balloons, Mexico.

Man with balloons, Mexico, 1968.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Pinwheel display, Mexico City.

Pinwheel display, Mexico City.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hatful of onions, Vera Cruz.

Hatful of onions, Vera Cruz.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Cambio de mayordomo.

Chamula women participated in a bead and ribbon ceremony called cambio de mayordomo (changing office), Mexico, 1968.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Unloading fowl, Oaxaca.

Unloading fowl, Oaxaca.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Woman shelling corn in wicker hampers at a local market, Mexico.

A woman shelled corn in wicker hampers at a local market.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Lunch on the Paseo de la Reforma.

Lunch on the Paseo de la Reforma.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Couple in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City.

A couple in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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