He graduated at Seville University in 1564 and later studied at Salamanca and Alcalá. From 1571 to 1588 held a post in the treasury. He was descended from Jews who were made to converted to Catholicism after 1492. One of his forebears had been burned by the Inquisition for secretly continuing to practice Judaism. In 1599, he published the first part of Guzmán de Alfarache. It was a well liked book which was printed in at least sixteen editions in five years.
In 1608, Alemán moved to America. It is said that he worked as a printer in Mexico. His Ortografía castellana (1609), published in Mexico, contains ideas for the reform of Spanish spelling. Nothing is known of Alemán after 1609, but it is sometimes believed that he was still living in 1617.
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